EDGEWOOD, Ky. - It's hard to believe that it's almost time for our children to return to school and, with that in mind, we need to make sure they have all their required, and physician-recommended, vaccinations. As parents, we must realize the true benefit of keeping our children safe from vaccine-preventable diseases.
One of the greatest achievements in modern medicine is the invention of vaccines. Before this, many infectious diseases threatened the health and lives of tens of thousands of children and adults in the United States every year.
To appreciate and fully understand the benefits of today’s immunizations, we must look at our past. Diseases, like polio, left thousands paralyzed. In 1964-1965, a German measles, or rubella, epidemic afflicted more than 12 million people. During this outbreak, children born to mothers who had German measles were left deaf, blind and/or mentally disabled.
As recently as the 1980’s, Haemophilus influenza B, or Hib, was also a serious threat, sometimes causing pneumonia or meningitis in infected people. As many as 20,000 children were infected during that decade.
Thankfully, vaccines have significantly reduced or eradicated certain diseases, such as smallpox (one of the most deadly diseases the human race has ever encountered), polio in the Western Hemisphere and measles in the Americas. Thanks to vaccines, approximately 6 million deaths and nearly 750,000 disabilities are prevented in children every year.
Parents of young children should understand the importance of getting the physician recommended vaccinations at the appropriate scheduled time. Following these recommendations ensures that your child gets the best protection at the youngest age possible. If a child is under-immunized, he or she is not fully protected and therefore susceptible to vaccine-preventable diseases. When it comes to immunizations, one of the best ways to protect your child is to learn all you can about vaccines from reliable sources, and your child’s physician tops that list.
It is important to recognize the value vaccines bring to society. More than 20 diseases are now vaccine-preventable. Perhaps with the exception of clean drinking water, vaccinations are the most effective intervention we have in reducing and preventing the resurgence of infectious diseases.
In Northern Kentucky, a group was formed to promote vaccines. The non-profit immunization coalition LINK—Let’s Immunize Northern Kentucky—aims to promote awareness, education and opportunities to protect our community from vaccine-preventable diseases. The physician-recommended vaccination schedule, parent information, a Vaccine Resource Tool Kit, and other valuable vaccination information can be found on LINK’s web site. For more information about the coalition or if you are interested in joining, please visit the website at www.immunizenky.org .
LINK will be hosting an Immunization Awareness Night with the Florence Freedom Baseball Team. The event will take place Saturday, Aug. 18, 2012 at 6 p.m. at Champion Window Field, with the medical community and anyone else joining together to show their support for community immunity. There will be fun activities, free cheer sticks and rally towels for fans and Kentucky’s 2012 Immunization Champion throwing out the first pitch.
For additional early childhood parenting tips, visit www.bornlearning.org .
Susan Guthier, RN, BSN, is a child care health consultant for the Northern Kentucky Health Department.