April 2, 2012
Five Important Reasons to Vaccinate Your Child
Suffolk County Recognizes National Infant Immunization Week, April 19-28
During the last week in April, Suffolk County will join hundreds of communities across the United States and those in more than 100 other countries around the world to recognize the critical role vaccination plays in safeguarding our children, our communities and public health.
Because of the success of vaccines in preventing disease, parents often are unaware that their children are at risk for so many serious and life-threatening diseases. Infants are particularly vulnerable to infectious diseases; that is why it is critical to protect them through immunization. Each day, nearly 12,000 babies are born in the United States, and all of them will need to be immunized against 14 vaccine-preventable diseases before age two.
“Immunization is a shared responsibility,” said Dr. James Tomarken, Commissioner of Health Services in Suffolk County. “Families, health care professionals and public health officials must work together to help protect the entire community.”
Dr. Tomarken offers five important reasons why parents should make their children’s immunizations a top priority.
- Immunizations can save your child’s life. Because of advances in medical science, your child can be protected against more diseases than ever before. Some diseases that once injured or killed thousands of children, have been eliminated completely and others are close to extinction– primarily due to safe and effective vaccines. One example of the great impact that vaccines can have is the elimination of polio in the United States. Polio was once America’s most-feared disease, causing death and paralysis across the country, but today, thanks to vaccination, there are no reports of polio in the United States.
- Vaccination is very safe and effective. Vaccines are only given to children after a long and careful review by scientists, doctors, and healthcare 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. Serious side effects following vaccination, such as severe allergic reaction, are very rare. The disease-prevention benefits of getting vaccines are much greater than the possible side effects for almost all children.
- Immunization protects others you care about. Children in the U.S. still get vaccine-preventable diseases. In fact, we have seen resurgences of measles and whooping cough (pertussis) over the past few years. In 2010 the U.S. had over 21,000 cases of whooping cough reported and 26 deaths, most in children younger than 6 months. In Suffolk County there have been over 400 cases of whooping cough since June of 2011. Unfortunately, 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 you and your children who are able to get vaccinated are fully immunized. This not only protects your family, but also helps prevent the spread of these diseases to your friends and loved ones.
4. Immunizations can save your family 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. In contrast, getting vaccinated against these diseases is a good investment and usually covered by insurance. The Vaccines for Children program is a federally funded program that provides vaccines at no cost to children from low-income families. To find out more about the VFC program, visit http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/programs/vfc/ or ask your child’s health care professional.
- 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. Your children don’t have to get smallpox shots anymore because the disease no longer exists. By vaccinating children against rubella (German measles), the risk that pregnant women will pass this virus on to their fetus or newborn has been dramatically decreased, and birth defects associated with that virus no longer are seen in the United States. If we continue vaccinating now, and vaccinating completely, parents in the future may be able to trust that some diseases of today will no longer be around to harm their children in the future.
Parents are encouraged to talk to their child’s health care provider to ensure that their infant is up-to-date on immunizations. Residents who do not have health insurance or who have health insurance that does not pay for immunizations are advised to ask their health-care providers about the Vaccines for Children program. Funded by the CDC and New York State Department of Health, the program offers vaccines at low or no cost to eligible children.
Additional information and vaccination schedules may be found on the CDC website at www.cdc.gov/vaccines or by calling the Suffolk County Department of Health Immunization Action Hotline weekdays at 853-8496.