Archive for Thursday, April 11, 2002

Immunization a priority for infants

Giving youth a healthy future through preventative health care

April 11, 2002

— Vaccines were among the 21th century's most successful and cost-effective public health tools available for preventing disease and death. They not only prevent a vaccinated individual from developing a potentially serious disease, but they also help protect the entire community by reducing the spread of infectious agents.

Immunization coverage among children in the United States is higher today than ever before. In Kansas we are getting closer to attaining our goal of having 90 percent or more of infants receiving the most critical dose of most recommended vaccines by 2 years of age. These very high immunization coverage levels translate into record or near-record low levels of vaccine-preventable diseases. For most of the vaccine-preventable diseases, we have had death rate reductions of 95 percent or more.

The Kansas Immunization Coalition urges parents and healthcare providers to use National Infant Immunization Week, April 14-20, as an opportunity to focus on the importance of ensuring babies are protected against polio and other vaccine-preventable diseases. All infants should begin a series of immunizations beginning at birth. By age 2, babies should have received vaccinations to protect them against 11 diseases: diphtheria, tetanus (lockjaw), pertussis (whopping cough), polio, measles, mumps, rubella (German measles), hepatitis B, chicken pox, Hib, meningitis and pneumonia.

Many people in our country have not seen a case of diphtheria, polio or measles in several generations and may not realize how much damage these diseases can cause. Unfortunately, some even believe these diseases are a thing of the past and that there is no reason to immunize their children. These diseases are now infrequent because of improved immunization services and the availability of improved vaccines. Often, when children aren't immunized, epidemics can occur. For example, a major cause of the measles of 1989-1991 was the failure to vaccinate children on time at 12 to 15 months of age. The state of Kansas had 246 diagnosed cases of measles in that timeframe.

All parents and caregivers should make the decision to immunize their children based on the facts. Parents and caregivers should review vaccine information statements available from their healthcare providers, which discuss the benefits and risks of vaccines. Asking questions about immunizations, including the benefits and risks pertinent to their own child, is encouraged. Each healthcare visit is an opportunity to discuss immunization and to provide the needed vaccinations. Each visit that does not result in a needed vaccination is a missed opportunity for protection not only for that child but also for the entire community.

If you have any questions about your child's immunizations, talk to your healthcare provider. For additional information about the childhood immunization schedule, contact the Kansas State Department of Health and Environment, Bureau of Epidemiology and Disease Prevention, Immunization Program at (785) 296-5591.

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