News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Opinion

December 8, 2013

GUEST EDITORIAL: Lack of vaccinations puts children, community at risk

SEYMOUR — U.S. vaccination programs appear to have become a victim of their own success. Because many parents have never experienced the effects of childhood diseases such as mumps or measles — let alone polio — they don’t always appreciate the health risks the diseases pose and the continuing need for vaccinations.

By the time children are 2 years old, they are recommended to have 10 different vaccinations to protect them from diseases such as chicken pox, polio, mumps and flu. But some parents who can’t afford vaccinations for their infants or are concerned about possible side effects from the shots are choosing not to have them vaccinated.

According to recent information from the Indiana State Board of Health, Jackson County fares better than the average in terms of children who have been vaccinated from 19 to 35 months with a 60 percent compliance rate. The state average is 47 percent with a median rate of 57 percent.

That’s good news, but how about that other 40 percent?

While most vaccinations prevent diseases that have been eradicated from the U.S., getting them for children — whose immune systems are weaker than adults’ — is important because some illnesses, such as polio, are just a plane ride away, Vaccinate Indiana executive director Lisa Robertson said.

In today’s mobile, global business environment, it’s highly likely that a person will regularly come in contact with someone who has traveled overseas. Some of those areas could be centers where a disease is more common, and an unvaccinated person could bring it back home.

Some parents are concerned about possible side effects from vaccines and decide not to have their children immunized. But not vaccinating infants is dangerous, not just for the health of the child but for the community. If a child who hasn’t been immunized is exposed to a disease and then comes in contact with someone whose immune system is weak, such as an elderly person, the child could spread the disease to that person as well.

In order to protect the child and the wider community, it is vital that parents vaccinate their children. Just because the parents have never known someone with polio, for example, doesn’t mean they should leave their children unprotected.

— The Tribune, Seymour

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