Diana Hornung, MD: Vaccinate your child
May 9, 2014
To the editor:
Vaccines have dramatically changed the landscape of childhood infectious diseases. Rabies, polio, tetanus, yellow fever, diphtheria and other vaccine-preventable diseases now are rarely seen in the U.S.
In the past, these infectious diseases caused tremendous disability and death, especially in young children.
Before we had the measles vaccine, more than 8 million people died worldwide from complications of measles. In the 1960s, 20,000 U.S. infants were born blind, deaf or with other severe abnormalities from Congenital Rubella Syndrome, due to their mother's exposure to infection during pregnancy.
Before the Hib vaccine was available in the 1980s, severe infection caused meningitis, pneumonia, joint, bone and infections and epiglottitis in 20,000 young children, killing nearly 1,000 each year.
Each of today's vaccine-preventable diseases carries such a history.
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Vaccines have made these diseases clinically unimportant, because they occur so uncommonly. Vaccines even protect unvaccinated children through "herd" immunity, because transmission of infection is not sustained in a highly vaccinated population. There is no question vaccines have saved lives and have prevented enormous suffering and disability.
Yet, we must remain vigilant.
Colorado has the sixth highest rate of immunization exemption in the U.S. In 2012, nearly 3,000 kindergarteners started school in Colorado without protection from a vaccine-preventable disease. "Herd" immunity is lost when increasing numbers of children are not vaccinated. Today, more than ever, travel exposes all of us to vaccine-preventable diseases, whether we personally travel or not.
Please discuss any vaccine concerns you have with your child's doctor. When you delay vaccinating your child, you delay protecting your child against infectious diseases.
The vaccine decisions you make for your child are very important.
Diana Hornung, MD
Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association