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Parents agree that feeding and sleep schedules are important to help keep their children healthy. Childhood immunizations are as important.
Vaccinating children on time is the best way to protect them against 14 serious and potentially deadly diseases before their second birthday.
National Infant Immunization Week (NIIW), April 18-25, is an annual observance to highlight the importance of protecting infants from vaccine-preventable diseases and to celebrate the achievements of immunization programs in promoting healthy communities throughout the United States.
"The recommended immunization schedule is designed to offer protection early in life," said Dr. Edna DeVries, a Marshfield Clinic pediatrician. "That's when babies are vulnerable and before it's likely they'll be exposed to diseases."
Public health and medical experts base their vaccine recommendations on many factors. They study information about diseases and vaccines very carefully to decide which vaccines kids should get and when they should get them for best protection.
Although the number of vaccines a child needs in the first two years may seem like a lot, doctors know a great deal about the human immune system. A healthy baby's immune system can handle getting all vaccines when they are recommended.
"There is no known benefit to delaying vaccination," DeVries said. "In fact, it puts babies at risk of getting sick because they're left vulnerable to catch serious diseases during the time they're not protected by vaccines."
When parents choose not to vaccinate, or to follow a delayed schedule, children are left unprotected against diseases that still circulate in this country, including measles and whooping cough.
More than 48,000 cases of whooping cough were reported in the United States in 2012. During this time, 20 deaths have been reported—the majority of these deaths were in children younger than 3 months of age.
The United States experienced a record number of measles cases during 2014, with 644 cases from 27 states reported, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This is the largest number of cases in the U.S. since measles was eliminated in 2000.
Staying on track with the immunization schedule ensures that children have the best protection against diseases like these by age two.
"I make sure my kids are vaccinated on time," said Dr. Namrata Mehta, an internal medicine and pediatrician, and mother of two. "Getting children all the vaccines they need by age 2 is one of the best things parents can do to help keep their children safe and healthy."
If you have questions about the childhood immunization schedule, talk with your child's doctor or nurse. For more information about vaccines, go to
www.cdc.gov/vaccines/parents. Also be sure to visit our health information hub on vaccines at https://www.marshfieldclinic.org/vaccine
Marshfield Clinic provides patient care, research and education with more than 50 locations in northern, central and western Wisconsin, making it one of the largest comprehensive medical systems in the United States.