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April 15, 2005

National Infant Immunization Week Is April 24-30

As parents, we are constantly concerned about keeping our children safe and healthy. To protect them, we put them in child safety seats and install childproof door latches. One of the most important ways we can protect our children is to follow the childhood immunization schedule and get them vaccinated against serious but preventable diseases. National Infant Immunization Week April 24 through 30, is an annual observance that highlights the importance of timely immunization for children age two and younger.

"Vaccines are one of medicine's greatest triumphs because they prevent serious disease and death," said Kathleen Smith, Commissioner of Health Services. "Many once common infectious diseases, such as polio, mumps, and rubella, are now only distant memories for most Americans. Today in the United States, we have few reminders of the suffering, disabilities, and premature deaths caused by these vaccine-preventable diseases."

Many of today's parents have never seen the diseases that vaccines prevent and don't fully understand the significance of following the childhood immunization schedule. Instead, a parent may ask, "Why does my baby need so many shots?"

"Before age two, every child should be immunized against 12 potentially serious vaccine-preventable diseases: measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), polio, Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib disease), Hepatitis B, varicella (chickenpox), pneumococcal disease and influenza," said Dr. Dennis Norfleet, County Medical Director. "At least one shot is needed for each of these diseases, and for a few diseases, several doses are needed for the best protection."

Vaccines are given at this early age because the diseases they prevent are far more serious or common among babies or young children. Up to 60 percent of severe disease caused by Hib in children is among babies less than 12 months of age. Moreover, 90 percent of all deaths from whooping cough are among children under six months of age.

"The ages that doctors recommend are not arbitrary," said Dr. Norfleet. "They were chosen to give our children the earliest and best protection against disease."

Another worry for some parents is that it's not safe to give several vaccines at once. Medical studies show these fears are unfounded. Vaccinations are safe and just as effective when given together as when they are given separately. What's more dangerous is catching and suffering from the diseases that vaccines prevent.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention designate National Infant Immunization Week to remind parents, health professionals, and the public that children deserve a healthy start by immunizing them against vaccine-preventable diseases.

"Vaccinating a child according to the immunization schedule protects not only that child but also the entire community," said Smith. "The 12 diseases that infant immunizations prevent still exist and circulate in many parts of the world. Most can still be found in New York State."

Following the childhood immunization schedule is one of the best ways parents can protect their children's health. The Oswego County Health Department offers immunization clinics from 9 to 11 a.m. Fridays at the H. Douglas Barclay Courthouse in Pulaski, and from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. Fridays at the Nick Sterio Public Health Clinic, 70 Bunner St., Oswego.

For more information on childhood immunizations, talk to your child's health care provider, or call the Oswego County Health Department at 349-3547 or 1-800-596-3200, ext. 3547.

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