Protect children’s health through immunization
We all want the same things for our children. We want them to feel loved and to grow up happy, healthy and safe. To keep them safe, we put them in child safety seats, install childproof latches, and teach them to look both ways before crossing the street. To keep them healthy, we dress them warmly, wash their hands, and make sure they eat their vegetables. One of the most important things we can do to protect their health is to vaccinate them.
We are lucky we live in a time when there are few visible reminders of the suffering and premature deaths caused by diseases that are now easily preventable with vaccines. Today, there are tens of thousands of children who are alive and healthy who would have died of infectious diseases before vaccines. Most of these children would have died before age two. Few of us have ever seen the diseases that were once commonplace. .
We have made great progress in protecting our children against disease. Vaccines are truly one of medicine’s greatest triumphs. We can now protect children from 13 diseases. Before vaccines hundreds of thousands of children became ill and hundreds of children died each year in the United States.
In spite of the success of vaccines, children must still be immunized so diseases such as whooping cough, measles and mumps do not regain a foothold.
Unfortunately, Nevada County’s children have the lowest immunization levels in the state: only 73 percent of entering kindergartners in 2006 were fully immunized, compared to 93 percent in California.
The Nevada County Board of Supervisors, concerned about our low immunization levels, has proclaimed the week of April 21 through 28 National Infant Immunization Week in Nevada County. They know we must protect our children ” and all of our citizens; our low immunization levels threaten our “community immunity.” This week is a perfect time to check and see if your children are up-to-date with their immunizations. Help them grow up healthy and strong. Love, protect, and immunize them on time every time: at birth and at 2, 4, 6, 12 and 15 months of age.
As guardians of the future, we all have a stake in children’s health. No child should have to suffer and possibly die from a vaccine-preventable disease. Parents and healthcare providers must work together to protect our children. Parents should make and keep appointments to ensure their child is up-to-date on all shots.
Physicians should talk with parents about why immunization is important, and answer questions about vaccine risks and benefits.
The Nevada County Department of Public Health offers an immunization clinic every Monday at the Nevada County Community Clinic, 10075 Levon Ave., Truckee. Call 582-7814 for an appointment or if you have questions. First 5 Nevada County has posted information about immunization on their Web site: http://www.first5nevco.org.
The promise is great for a world where all children have a chance for a healthy start to life. But we must remember there was a time not long ago when children suffered and died from diseases that we can now easily prevent. We must not let that time return. Love and protect our children by vaccinating them.
Joseph Iser, MD, DrPH is the Director of Public Health and the Health Officer for Nevada County; Cynthia Schuetz, MPH, PhD is a Community Health Education Consultant for First 5 Nevada County.