Why vaccinating family members helps protect babies

The Los Angeles Times reported earlier this week on a study that found having older siblings already vaccinated for chickenpox reduced the likelihood of infants developing chickenpox by 90 percent. Other medical studies have shown similar large decreases in the number of infants who got sick with measles, whooping cough and the flu when their families were up to date on vaccinations. These studies are a reminder that young infants are more vulnerable to many diseases. The younger infants are when they get sick, the more likely they will get seriously ill, need to be in the hospital or even die.

Some vaccines like chicken pox, influenza (flu), measles and whooping cough are just not effective in young infants. The whooping cough vaccine must be given several times before it triggers the body’s defense. The best way to protect infants is to make sure family members and caregivers are vaccinated. If the infants are not exposed to the germs, they will not get sick.

If you or your children are not up to date, call your health care provider to schedule your vaccinations. It will help protect everyone – even babies who are too young to be immunized.

Lyn Ranta, MD~ Lyn Ranta, MD, director of Physician Affairs, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin

Dr. Ranta is a co-leader of Children’s Hospital’s immunization initiative, and she treated children as a community pediatrician for more than 20 years.

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