August signals the end of summer and back-to-school for many students. As such, it is important that your child visits his or her pediatrician to make sure that their immunizations are up-to-date. “Disease prevention is the key to public health. It is always better to prevent a disease than to treat it. Vaccines prevent disease in the people who receive them and protect those who come into contact with unvaccinated individuals. They also help prevent infectious diseases and save lives. Many of the infectious diseases that were once common in this country, including polio, measles, diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough), rubella (German measles), mumps, tetanus, Streptococcus pneumoniae and Haemophilus influenza (type b) are now controlled through immunizations” reports Dr. Lawrence Robinson, Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at CDU and UCLA.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), vaccines have eliminated or greatly reduced a number of life threatening diseases. However, these diseases still exist and if we stop immunizing, they may become commonplace once again. Therefore, vigilance is vital to ensure that children are protected— not just for this generation but for future generations as well.
Vaccines contain weakened or attenuated forms of specific diseases. When introduced into the body, natural antibodies are formed that protect against viral or bacterial illness. If exposed to the disease at some point in the future, the person will have the necessary antibodies to ward off the infection.
In most cases, the immunizations and boosters are enough to provide the necessary protection. Where they are not, children remain at risk for diseases. That’s why it’s particularly important that all children be immunized— the more who are, the less chance there is that a particular disease will be around to be contracted.
Additionally, Dr. Robinson says that Hib and Prevnar vaccines, which protect against Haemophilus influenza and Streptococcus pneumoniae respectively, have also significantly reduced the incidence of bacterial meningitis in children, which can be a life-threatening disease that affects the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord. “Adolescents 10 years of age and young adults are now being given the meningococcal vaccine which will have the same effect in reducing bacterial meningitis. We are seeing less cases of this disease as a result.”
Parents and caregivers are encouraged to have their children immunized to reduce the risk of infectious diseases.
For more information, visit baltimorehealth.org/immunization.html or call: 410-396-4454.