Everyone wants to do what’s best for their children. They are strapped into car seats, fed healthy fruits and vegetables and given warm coats in the winter.
One of the best ways to keep children safe, however, is to ensure they are up to date on their vaccinations, according to officials at the Surry County Health and Nutrition Center.
With August designated National Immunization Awareness Month, Brandi Poplin, clinical services director for the county health department, said the time has come to get the word out about the importance of making sure shots are up to date.
“Vaccinations are one of our biggest focus points in public health,” she said. “It’s key to ensure that all children are vaccinated against preventable diseases.”
In the past few years there has been a resurgence in diseases that were once thought stamped out.
“We’ve seen more and more cases of things like measles and whooping cough,” Poplin said, noting that much of the resurgence can be directly attributed to parents choosing not to vaccinate their children. “Because of this, we wanted to get the word out that vaccinations are safe and how important it is to have children vaccinated.”
While public health law mandates that children be vaccinated before starting school, Poplin said that certain exemptions exist and home-schooled children are not required by law to be vaccinated.
“Luckily, in Surry County, about 90 percent of children up to age 2 are up to date on their vaccinations,” Poplin said. “That’s way above the state average.”
She said the benefits of having children vaccinated go far beyond any negatives.
Immunizations can save a child’s life. Because of advances in medical science, children can be protected against more diseases than ever before. Some diseases that once injured or killed thousands of children are no longer common in the U.S. – primarily due to safe and effective vaccines.
Polio is one example of the impact that vaccines have in the United States. Polio was once America’s most-feared disease, causing death and paralysis across the country, but today there are no reports of polio in the United States.
Vaccinations are safe and effective. Vaccines are only given to children after a long review by scientists, doctors, and health care professionals. Vaccines will involve some discomfort and may cause pain, redness, or tenderness at the site of injection, but this is minimal compared to the pain, discomfort, and trauma of the diseases these vaccines prevent, according to literature supplied by the health department.
Serious side effects following vaccination, such as severe allergic reaction, are rare according to officials.
Immunization protects others. Children in the U.S. still get vaccine-preventable diseases. In fact, there has been a resurgence of measles and whooping cough (pertussis) over the past few years. More than 48,000 cases of whooping cough were reported in the U. S. in 2012. During this time, 20 deaths were reported—the majority of these deaths were in children younger than 3 months of age.
Some babies are too young to be completely vaccinated and some people may not be able to receive certain vaccinations due to severe allergies, weakened immune systems from conditions like leukemia, or other reasons. To help keep them safe, it is important that all who can be vaccinated.
Immunizations can save time and money. A child with a vaccine-preventable disease can be denied attendance at schools or daycare facilities. Some vaccine-preventable diseases can result in prolonged disabilities and can take a financial toll because of lost time at work, medical bills or long-term disability care.
Immunization protects future generations. Vaccines have reduced and, in some cases, eliminated many diseases that killed or severely disabled people just a few generations ago. For example, smallpox vaccination eradicated that disease worldwide.
If costs are a factor, Poplin said state programs are available that will help defray the costs for the uninsured or under-insured.
“Come out and get vaccinated,” she urged. “We’re a walk-in clinic open Monday through Friday. If you’re not sure which shots you or your child need we can look it up and get you up to date in short order.”