Dr. Anne Schuchat, U.S. Surgeon General: Caring for your children

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To the editor:

When you're a parent or caregiver for a child, it's up to you to protect your children, whether it's making sure the car seat is secure or insisting on broccoli before dessert.

You can shield your children from something you may take for granted - vaccine-preventable diseases.

About one million children in the U.S. are not fully immunized by 2 years old.

Although the occurrence of most vaccine preventable diseases is declining, we have seen resurgence of whooping cough (also called pertussis) in the past few years.

In 2006, there were more than 15,000 cases of whooping cough reported nationally.

To prevent whooping cough, a child needs four doses of a vaccine called DTaP by age 2.

It can be hard to get your children to the doctor or clinic for their immunizations, but that fourth dose is critical to protect them against this serious and sometimes deadly disease. It's not just children that need shots - did you know that adults can spread pertussis to others, too? Ask your healthcare provider about a pertussis booster shot for adults and pre-teens to protect the entire family, including infants who haven't been completely immunized from this serious disease.

Protection from childhood diseases can break down if vaccinations are missed or doses skipped. The sad fact is that low immunization rates can lead to outbreaks - clusters of disease - that can hospitalize or even kill children who are not up-to-date on their immunizations.

Saturday through May 2 is National Infant Immunization Week.

Our goal is that every child will be immunized "on time, every time" by 2 years old.

Don't wait until a child goes to school to catch up on vaccinations - you would be shocked to know how vulnerable your infant or baby is without the recommended immunizations.

Older brothers and sisters, relatives, or even a trip to the grocery store can expose an infant to disease. By boosting babies' immune systems through vaccination, they are protected from what used to be common childhood diseases.

There are 14 diseases you can protect your child against by immunizing them on time before they turn 2. We have seen a great reduction in many diseases, and we want to continue that trend. We urge you to continue to be your children's umbrella, shielding and protecting them.

How can you do this?

- 1. Make sure your child is up-to-date on immunizations; visit CDC's childhood scheduler online at www2a.cdc.gov/nip/kidstuff/newscheduler_le/ find out what immunizations your child needs

- 2. Get an immunization card or record, and bring it to every doctors visit

- 3. Ask at every visit if your child needs an immunization

- 4. Talk with your child's doctor, and don't be afraid to ask questions

- 5. Visit the CDC Web site at www.cdc.gov/vaccines or call 1-800-CDC-INFO for more information on immunizations.

- 6. The good news is that we are fortunate in this country to have free and low-cost vaccination programs. Talk to your healthcare provider today.

Dr. Anne Schuchat, U.S. Surgeon General

Janice Poirot, R.N., Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association

Jacque Malley, R.N, Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association

Sheila Fountain, M.D., Pediatrics of Steamboat Springs

Ron Famiglietti, M.D., Pediatrics of Steamboat Springs

Dana Fitzgerald, M.D., Pediatrics of Steamboat Springs

Steve Ross, M.D., Sleeping Bear Pediatrics

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