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Letter: Immunization. Power to Protect.

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It’s never too early to think immunizations for your baby. Pregnancy is a great time to learn about the vaccines your baby will need. Educate yourself about shots before the excitement of having a new baby.

The diseases vaccines protect against are very real and can be devastating. We’ve done such a good job of vaccinating children in the past that once-common diseases are seldom seen in the United States. So, it’s understandable that some parents may not have heard of some of the vaccines or the serious diseases they prevent. In fact, some doctors have never seen some of the diseases that vaccines prevent. And yet, many of those diseases are just a plane ride away.

An excellent place to start: immunize mom to immunize baby. There are certain vaccines pregnant women can get to help keep them healthy. The maternal antibodies passed to babies protect them until they are old enough to get vaccinated. Two vaccines pregnant women should always get are whooping cough (pertussis) and influenza. Getting Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis) vaccine during (every) pregnancy makes it less likely a woman will have whooping cough during the time when her baby is most at risk, which is the first few months. Ninety percent of whooping cough deaths are in infants younger than four months. Babies of women who received the flu vaccine during pregnancy are more likely to be born full-term and at a healthy weight. Once a child is old enough to be vaccinated (two months), it is important to follow the recommended immunization schedule to continue that protection.

Parents need to vaccinate on time, every time. Delaying or skipping immunizations puts children at risk for serious disease. Vaccines are thoroughly tested before they can be recommended and used. They are continually monitored by doctors, researchers and public health officials after being licensed and in use. Vaccine manufacturers have refined the process of making vaccine, which means that even though babies get more vaccines today, they actually get fewer antigens than they did decades ago.

Infants are exposed to thousands of germs every day. The antigens in vaccines are just a drop in the bucket compared to what their bodies handle on a daily basis. Some babies may experience side effects of a healthy immune response, such as low-grade fever or fussiness, but vaccines do not cause the severe illness of the disease itself. Severe side effects are extremely rare and study after study conducted over the past ten years has shown that vaccines do not cause autism.

Here are six excellent sources for more information regarding vaccines for pregnant women, infants and children. (Don’t forget teens and adults need vaccinations too.)

The Minnesota Vaccine for Children program has free vaccine for infants and children, if families qualify. Call Public Health at 320-208-6670, or your clinic, to get more information about vaccines and to see if your child qualifies for MnVFC.  

Marcia Schroeder, RN

Disease Prevention and Control

Stevens Traverse Grant Public Health  

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