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You and Your Health

Immunize to Protect Your Baby Against Disease

Immunize to Protect Your Baby Against Disease

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Immunization is one of the best ways parents can protect their infants and young children from potentially serious diseases. Check to see if your child is up to date on immunizations.

National Infant Immunization Week (NIIW) is an annual celebration of the critical role immunization plays in keeping our children and communities healthy. NIIW 2011 is April 23-30. It is part of a broader, global campaign of “vaccination weeks” in the Americas, Europe, Africa, and the Eastern Mediterranean.

During this one week, hundreds of communities throughout the U. S. sponsor activities promoting the benefits of on time vaccination to protect their children and the importance of maintaining high vaccination rates to protect the whole community.

Protecting against Vaccine-Preventable Diseases

It is important for infants and young children to be fully immunized. Vaccine-preventable diseases can be very serious – even deadly – especially for infants and young children. For example, children younger than 2 years old are at the highest risk for serious pneumococcal disease like pneumonia, blood infection (sepsis), and meningitis. Before the pneumococcal vaccine was used routinely, an estimated 200 children died each year of pneumococcal disease.

Infant immunizations have had an enormous impact on improving the health of children in the United States. Most parents today have never seen first-hand the devastating consequences that vaccine-preventable diseases have on a family or community. While these diseases are not common in the U.S., they persist around the world. It is important that we continue to protect our children with vaccines because outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases can and do occasionally occur in this country.

For example, last year preliminary data showed more than 21,000 cases of “whooping cough” (pertussis) in this country. Twenty-six deaths were reported – 22 of these deaths in the U.S were in children younger than 1 year old. Additionally, between January and early April in 2011, there were 42 cases of measles reported. Measles comes into the United States from countries where the disease still circulates, including many European countries. Measles spreads easily and it can be serious, causing hospitalization and even death. Young children are at highest risk for serious complications from measles.

Vaccinate On Time, Every Time

Even though the U.S. experiences outbreaks of some vaccine-preventable diseases, the spread of disease usually slows or stops because of immunization. Fortunately, most parents choose to vaccinate their children and immunization rates in this country are at or near record highs. In fact less than 1% of children do not receive any vaccines. But there are some children who are not fully immunized. It’s important that children receive all doses of the vaccines according to the recommended immunization schedule. Not receiving all doses of a vaccine leaves children and communities under immunized and vulnerable to serious diseases.

That’s why it’s important to make sure that your child is up to date on his or her immunizations. Call your pediatrician to find out if your child is due for any vaccinations, or use this online tool to enter your child’s current record and quickly see if any doses have been skipped or missed. It is important to your child’s health to be current on immunizations.

Paying for Immunization

Most health insurance plans cover the cost of vaccinations, but you should check with your health care professional before going to the doctor. If you don’t have health insurance, or if your insurance does not cover vaccinations, the Vaccines for Children (VFC) program may be able to help with the cost.

The VFC program helps families of eligible children who might not otherwise have access to immunization. The program provides vaccinations at no cost. Children younger than 19 years of age are eligible for VFC vaccines if they are Medicaid-eligible, American Indian or Alaska Native, or have no health insurance. “Underinsured” children who have health insurance that does not cover vaccination can receive VFC vaccines through Federally Qualified Health Centers or Rural Health Centers. Parents of uninsured or underinsured children who receive vaccines at no cost through the VFC Program should check with their health care providers about possible administration fees that might apply. These fees help providers cover the costs of giving the vaccines, including storing the vaccines and paying staff members to give vaccines to patients. However, VFC vaccines cannot be denied to an eligible child if a family can’t afford the fee.

Have Questions about Immunization?

  * Talk with your child’s health care professional, contact your local or state health department, or call the CDC at 800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636).

  * Visit the CDC’s Vaccines & Immunizations home page.