Molly Sander, immunization program manager for the state health department, spoke Friday at the Symposium on Perinatal Medicine and Women's Healthcare about the importance of vaccinations for infants and their caregivers, especially adults who regularly care for infants and health-care workers.
"People have the mindset that vaccines are only for school-age kids or younger kids, but we need to get out of that mindset. When a newborn gets immunizations, they get them in multiple visits and they need a series of doses, so they don't have the full protection right away," Sander said.
"It's important that the adult contacts are vaccinated so they don't spread diseases to young infants," she added.
Sander highlighted the importance of pertussis and influenza vaccination for adolescents and adults in close contact with infants, explaining that infants don't have full protection from pertussis in the early months and influenza vaccine isn't licensed to be given to infants under 6 months.
"We don't hear a lot about adults being concerned about getting themselves vaccinated. Our rates for infant immunization in North Dakota are around 75 to 80 percent, but for adults that percentage is much lower," Sander said.
As with all vaccinations, Sander explained, their are contraindications for being vaccinated if an adult has a serious allergy to a vaccine or for pregnant women. Pregnant women shouldn't receive live vaccine such as MMR or chickenpox vaccine.
"But, for a lot of health conditions, those concerns actually place adults in a group where they are a priority to be vaccinated so they aren't getting the diseases," Sander said.
Sander said that vaccination the number one cost-effective health care method for preventing disease, and especially in infants, diseases that used to be common childhood illnesses are for the most part no longer circulating in the United States.
"My main focus today has been getting the word out to adults and health-care workers who care for infants. People should contact their health-care provider to see if they are up to date on their immunizations, and make sure to be vaccinated against pertussis and influenza," Sander said.