Tuesday, August 25, 2015

National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM) Tips for Expecting Moms and Young Kids

August is National Immunization Awareness Month, and the Washington State Department of Health (Health) has spent time educating the public on the benefits of vaccinating your children and members of your family before the start of the 2015/2016 school year. Especially when this past year boasted some of Washington's highest cases of Whooping Cough.

Now that most of Washington is at the "final countdown" stage of summer--and almost everyone in the education world is prepping for the school year, here are some quick tips on vaccinations. Hopefully, you have already crossed this off of your "back-to-school to-do list," but in case you haven't, check these out:

If you are pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant--

Before becoming pregnant, a woman should be up-to-date on routine adult vaccines to help protect her and her child from vaccine-preventable diseases like rubella.
  • Live vaccines should be given at least one month before pregnancy; vaccines received during pregnancy should be inactivated.
  • It is very important for women to be up to date on their measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine before becoming pregnant. Rubella infection in pregnant women can cause unborn babies to have serious birth defects with devastating, life-long consequences, or death.
  • You can have a pre-pregnancy blood test to see if you are immune to the disease. You probably received the MMR vaccine as a child, but you should confirm this with your doctor.
  • If you need to get an MMR vaccine, you should avoid becoming pregnant until one month after receiving the MMR vaccine and, ideally, not until your immunity is confirmed by a blood test.
Tip: There are two vaccines routinely recommended during pregnancy: flu (to protect against influenza) and Tdap (to protect against whooping cough).

It is safe, and very important, for a pregnant woman to receive the inactivated flu vaccine, commonly known as the flu shot. Pregnant women can receive the flu shot at any time during their pregnancy.

Flu season typically occurs from October through May. Pregnant women should get the vaccine soon after it becomes available. A pregnant woman who gets the flu is at risk for serious complications and hospitalization.

Women should get the adult tetanus, diphtheria and acellular pertussis (whooping cough) vaccine (Tdap) during each pregnancy. Ideally, the vaccine should be given between 27 and 36 weeks of pregnancy for the most whooping cough protection to be passed on to the unborn child.

This vaccine is important to help protect young babies from whooping cough until they are able to receive their own vaccines at 2 months old.

If you care for a child ages birth to 6--

Vaccines give parents the safe, proven power to protect their children from 14 serious diseases before they turn 2 years old.
  • Vaccinating your children according to the recommended schedule is one of the best ways you can protect them from 14 harmful and potentially deadly disease like measles and whooping cough (pertussis) before their second birthday. 
  • Children who don’t receive recommended vaccines are at risk of 1) getting the disease or illness, and 2) having a severe case of the disease or illness. You can’t predict or know in advance if an unvaccinated child will get a vaccine-preventable disease, nor can you predict or know how severe the illness will be or become. 
  • Vaccines don’t just protect your child. Immunization is a shared responsibility. Families, health care professionals and public health officials must work together to help protect the entire community – especially babies who are too young to be vaccinated themselves. 
  • Most parents choose the safe, proven protection of vaccines and are vaccinating their children according to the recommended immunization schedule. Estimates from a CDC nationally representative childhood vaccine communications poll (July 2014 online poll) suggest that most people are vaccinating according to schedule or are intending to do so. 
Stat: In fact, 88.9% of parents reported that they are vaccinating according to schedule or are intending to do so.
  • Most young parents in the U.S. have never seen the devastating effects that diseases like measles or whooping cough (pertussis) can have on a family or community. It's easy to think of these as diseases of the past. 
  • Many vaccine preventable diseases are only a plane ride away. For example, measles is still common in many parts of the world. The disease is brought into the United States by unvaccinated travelers who are infected while in other countries. When measles gets into communities of unvaccinated people in the U.S. (such as people who refuse vaccines for religious, philosophical or personal reasons), outbreaks are more likely to occur. 
    • Since measles was declared eliminated in the United States in 2000, the annual number of people reported to have measles ranged from a low of 37 people in 2004 to a high of 668 people in 2014. In 2014 there were 23 outbreaks affecting 668 people from 27 states.
    • This year, measles continues to affect the United States with over 178 cases reported as of June 26, 2015. Most of the reported measles cases occurred in people who were not vaccinated or who did not know whether they were vaccinated. 
  • Outbreaks of whooping cough (pertussis) have also occurred in the United States over the past few years. There are many factors contributing to the recent increase in whooping cough, but getting vaccinated is the best way to prevent whooping cough and its complications.
While immunizations have significantly reduced the incidence of many serious infectious diseases, vaccination rates for some diseases are not meeting national public health goals. During National Immunization Awareness Month, it is important to remind the people you care for that immunizations aren’t just for children. They are needed throughout our lifetime.

For more information, check out the Department of Health's page dedicated to immunizations, complete with an easy-to-read ebook: http://www.doh.wa.gov/YouandYourFamily/Immunization/Children/ChildhoodImmunizationsFacts

Statistics and data in this article are courtesy of the Center for Disease Control.

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