Vaccines are important for a healthy community
National Infant Immunization Week begins April 24. This annual event focuses attention on the importance of protecting infants from vaccine-preventable diseases, and also celebrates the achievements of immunization programs in promoting healthy communities.
Vaccinations remain one of the most important achievements in public health. Because of vaccinations, smallpox has been eradicated and mortality rates for nine vaccine-preventable diseases in children have declined substantially. Over the course of the 20th century and into the 21st, vaccines were developed to prevent diseases such as polio, measles, diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough), chicken pox, mumps, tetanus, seasonal and H1N1 influenzas, the most common types of bacterial meningitis, and certain types of hepatitis, among others.
Infants are particularly vulnerable to infectious diseases, so it is critical to protect them through immunization. However, the success of vaccines in preventing disease in the U. S. has left many parents unaware that their children face continuing risks from serious and life-threatening diseases.
“It can be difficult to convince people to immunize children against diseases that are rarely seen, ” said Dr. Adrienne LeBailly, director of the Larimer County Department of Health and Environment. “But vaccines are the reason we no longer see these diseases.
“If we stopped vaccinating, we could very quickly see a resurgence of diseases like measles, and mumps, as well as very serious complications and deaths from meningitis. ”
Some parents may worry about the safety of vaccines, and the number of shots children sometimes get at the same time, but today’s vaccines have an excellent safety record.
“We understand the confusion and concerns parents have about vaccines, ” continued LeBailly. “But in nearly all cases, the benefits of vaccination outweigh whatever risks exist. We tend to hear about the rare serious reaction out of the millions of vaccinations given, instead of focusing on the thousands of illnesses prevented and lives saved each year. ”
LeBailly noted that extensive testing is required by law before a vaccine can be licensed. Once in use, vaccines continue to be monitored for safety and effectiveness.
Unfortunately a lot of misinformation about vaccine risks persists. A research article published in the 1990’s that appeared to link MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine with autism has been discredited as “dishonest and irresponsible, ” and has been retracted by the medical journal where it was published. Many subsequent scientific studies have found no association between autism and MMR vaccine. Similarly, the preservative thimerosal has also been blamed for the development of autism, but this preservative was removed from children’s vaccines in 2001, and autism continues to increase.
“Sadly, this focus on vaccines may have diverted researchers from finding the true causes of autism, but we are confident that this challenging disorder is not in any way connected to vaccinations, ” LeBailly said. “Our staff of immunization nurses are well-informed on the vaccines they give and can talk to parents who have concerns about vaccinating their children. ”
According to the CDC, vaccinations save 33,000 lives annually and more than $43 billion in medical and societal costs.
“We want Larimer County residents to know that vaccines – for infants, children, and adults – are safe and important to the health of our community, ” said LeBailly. “We also want parents to understand that immunizing their children is one of the most important things they can do to protect them against serious infectious diseases.
“It’s really a very loving thing to do. ”
For more information on vaccines and vaccine safety, visit:
For information on the Larimer County Health Department’s immunization program, clinic locations and hours, visit: http://www.larimer.org/health/chs/immunizations.asp