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Ask a doctor: What do you need to know about babies and vaccinations?

Do you have questions about vaccines in babies? Dr. Elizabeth Meade from Swedish can help.

SEATTLE — Michelle: This week is a very big week to talk about vaccines and babies because it is the 25th anniversary of--

Dr. Elizabeth Meade: National Infant Immunization week. 

Michelle: Thank you. Dr. Elizabeth Meade from Swedish is here to talk about vaccines and babies. We’ve talked about it a lot, but we should always hit it--are vaccines are safe for babies?

Dr. Elizabeth Meade: They are safe. They are effective. They are really, really the best way that we have to protect babies and children against tons of vaccine-preventable illnesses.

Michelle: Like, the measles?

Dr. Elizabeth Meade: Like the measles, like flu, like tetanus, like meningitis, like pneumonia--all kinds of things. Babies in the first two years of their life can be protected against 14 potentially deadly diseases just by getting routine vaccinations.

Michelle: Okay, but you just named a bunch of vaccinations. Are we seeing more vaccines that babies have to have?

Dr. Elizabeth Meade: Yeah, so this is a great question; I get this from parents all the time. And I think their question often is, "Is it okay for my baby's immune system because we are able to give them so many more vaccines now?' And the answer is yes. Yes, it’s okay, and it’s safe. So in the 1960s when we had vaccines for just four or five diseases, it was actually 3200 proteins that kids were exposed to, to get those vaccines. But because technology is so much better now for all of the routine immunizations now, it’s only about 120 proteins. So actually the amount of things we're getting exposed to is going way down, but we are much better protected.

Michelle: Okay, so what if someone can’t afford to vaccinate their babies?

Dr. Elizabeth Meade: Well, we are so lucky in Washington state because we are a universal coverage state. So every child in the state up to age 19 can get all of their vaccines for free. If families have any questions about that, they can call the department of health or call their family doctor. But every kid should be able to get free vaccines.

Michelle: I have learned as a new mom that you have to wait a certain time for certain vaccines with your baby. What should we be doing then if we are worried about protecting our children from certain diseases or illnesses if they can’t get vaccinated?

Dr. Elizabeth Meade: There are different ways we can protect our kids. So one of the things is for very young babies, before that two month mark, the best way that parents can protect their children is for moms to get vaccinated, especially for things like TDap and flu, and really for everyone in the home to have their routine boosters-- flu shots, pertussis, those sorts of things. And then the other thing is if you’re breastfeeding, that actually helps your baby get some passive immunity and some antibodies. All of those things can help protect babies before that two month age, and then really throughout infancy, I just recommend not having people in close contact with your kids if they are not up-to-date on their vaccines.

Michelle: I know and that’s hard. That’s a hard thing to do

Dr. Elizabeth Meade: It’s hard, but it’s really important because how terrible will we feel as parents if our kids get something from somebody else?

Michelle: Oh absolutely, it’s not worth it. So if anyone wants to learn more where should they go? 

Dr. Elizabeth Meade: They can check out healthychildren.org, which is the American Academy of Pediatrics' site for families and kids' health. Or they can go to Swedish.org and we’ve got a whole blog post about lots of other common questions. 

Michelle: And you’re really big on your Instagram page, too.

Dr. Elizabeth Meade: Yeah, we post a lot about vaccines and lots of other health topics too.