Car seat? Check. Sunscreen? Check. Bike helmet? Life jacket? Check. Check. As a parent, you do everything you can to protect your child from life’s hazards. Thanks to scientific advances, children have never been safer or healthier.
And one of our greatest preventive achievements is immunization. Oregonians vaccinate for a variety of reasons. Some believe immunization is the best way to protect themselves and their children against terrible diseases. Many people want to keep from spreading illness to those who can’t get vaccinated because of age or medical conditions. And some immunize simply because it’s what the vast majority of us do.
Before vaccines, children were at great risk for terrible illnesses. According to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, before vaccines parents could expect that every year:
- Polio would paralyze 10,000 children,
- Measles would infect about 4 million children, killing 3,000,
- Diphtheria would be the most common cause of death in school-aged children,
- Rubella would cause birth defects and developmental delays in as many as 20,000 newborns,
- Whooping cough (pertussis) would kill thousands of infants, and
- Hib, a bacterium, would cause meningitis in about 15,000 children, leaving many with permanent brain damage.
But vaccines may be a victim of their own success. Because disease no longer threatens children like it used to, some parents wonder if immunization is really necessary. And the answer is yes, vaccines are crucial to maintaining a healthy community. In many parts of the world, even in the U.S., children are dying from vaccine-preventable diseases. In 2010, California experienced a whooping cough epidemic that included well over 8,000 reported cases and took the lives of 10 infants. In Oregon, we had 285 cases in the same year.
Many parents have questions or concerns about vaccines. Some have heard that vaccines cause autism or contain harmful ingredients. But many studies have proven that vaccines absolutely do not cause autism or any other chronic illness. Vaccines are rigorously tested to ensure they are safe and effective. The current childhood immunization schedule was developed by doctors and scientists to give children and adults the best protection from vaccine-preventable diseases. Vaccines do have risks, such as mild side effects like soreness at the injection site or fever---more serious side effects are very rare. But if we choose not to get vaccinated, we’re exchanging these small risks for the much larger risk of getting a terrible disease.
Immunization is one of the safest and most effective ways to keep yourself, your family and your community healthy. Get all the facts so you can make the decision that’s right for you.