Vaccines save lives and every day around the world, immunization advocates, healthcare professionals, and public health and government agencies work to bring vaccines to those who need them. For one week in April, known as World Immunization Week (WIW), these efforts are celebrated. In 2014, WIW will be held from April 24 to April 30; the theme will be “Are you up to date?”
As part of WIW, National Infant Immunization Week (NIIW) will be celebrated in the U.S. from April 26 to May 3. NIIW has been held each year since 1994 to highlight the importance of vaccines, particularly for maintaining the health and well-being of children less than 2 years of age. Celebrate NIIW in your family by making sure children up to 2 years of age are up to date on their vaccines.
Some people wonder why babies need to be protected from hepatitis B, a disease commonly thought of as a sexually transmitted disease (STD). However, hepatitis B is transmitted through blood, and many people don’t even know they are infected. So, sometimes children are unknowingly infected. In addition, some babies are infected during birth if their mothers are infected. Because these babies have a high risk of developing chronic liver disease or liver cancer and because the vaccine will protect them if given immediately after exposure, the birth dose of hepatitis B vaccine has been an important means of combatting this disease. For these reasons, babies receive the hepatitis B vaccine shortly after birth or prior to being discharged from the hospital.
Between 1 to 2 months of age, infants should receive their second dose of hepatitis B vaccine. At the 2-month well visit, babies will receive multiple vaccines that prevent a variety of diseases. The first vaccine they will receive is the rotavirus vaccine, which is an oral vaccine that prevents the most common cause of diarrhea and dehydration in infants. The other vaccines received during this visit are given as shots and include those that prevent Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), pneumococcus, polio, diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis.
During the 4- and 6-months well visits, infants should receive most of the same vaccines they get at 2 months, except hepatitis B. In some cases they may not need a rotavirus vaccine at 6 months, depending on which version of the vaccine they received previously. At 6 months old, babies may need a dose of influenza vaccine, depending on the time of year. If they get the influenza vaccine, they will need another dose one month later.
Infants should receive their third doses of polio and hepatitis B vaccines between 6 and 18 months of age.
At 12 months of age, infants should receive two doses of hepatitis A vaccine, spaced six months apart. During the 12- to 15-month visit, infants should receive their fourth doses of Hib and pneumococcal vaccines, as well as first doses of chickenpox, measles, mumps and rubella vaccines.
At 15 to 18 months of age, infants should receive their fourth dose of the DTaP vaccine, which prevents diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis.
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