April 24 – 30 is World Immunization Week, a global public health campaign intended to raise awareness of the importance of immunization against vaccine-preventable diseases around the world.
When it comes to preemies, many parents are unsure of whether or not to vaccinate their baby according to their chronological age or their adjusted age. And many parents question whether vaccinations are safe for their preemies. Today we have Rekha Lakshmanan, Director of Advocacy and Policy for The Immunization Partnership, here to answer some of the most common questions regarding preemies and vaccinations. Have more questions? Leave us a comment!
Should preemies be given vaccines on schedule?
Yes. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) preemies should be vaccinated according to The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) schedule for full term infants.
I read that the Hep B vaccine should be given in the first hours of life. Is that true for preemies too?
The CDC recommends a preemie born to a mom who does not have hepatitis B should receive the Hep-B series when they turn one month old. If an infant is born prematurely to a mom with hepatitis b, then the baby should receive a dose at birth or shortly thereafter. If the baby weighs less than 4.4 pounds then the infant should get 3 additional doses starting at 1 month of age, following the recommended schedule. (source)
Is there any risk in giving my preemie shots on a delayed schedule?
One risk is that delaying one or more recommended vaccines could leave your preemie vulnerable to preventable disease. Vaccines are studied and tested for effectiveness and safety under strict guidelines and timing schedules. Additionally, we don’t have efficacy or safety data to support a delayed or alternative schedule. Therefore, it is really important to follow the ACIP recommended schedule to ensure your preemie is protected.
I don’t want my preemie to receive up to 4 shots in one day. Can I space them out?
It is understandable that taking your preemie to the doctor for 4 shots in one day can be upsetting and scary. However, what is scarier is if your preemie contracts a vaccine preventable disease because they weren’t vaccinated on time. There are studies that show that cortisol levels in babies max out after receiving 1 shot, meaning, that additional shots do not impact their cortisol levels. In fact, a baby can experience more stress by being brought in multiple times to the doctor because the vaccines were more spaced out. As I mentioned earlier, there is no effectiveness or safety data to support spacing a vaccine schedule.
Is there anything else parents should know about the importance of vaccinating their preemie?
It is really important to make sure your preemies are vaccinated on time and accordingly to the ACIP schedule. Studies show that preemies rely more on their own immune systems compared to full term babies. Help give your preemie a strong defense against preventable diseases and a great start to life by protecting them through vaccination.