April 18, 2008
National Infant Immunization Week is April 19-25
As parents, we are constantly concerned about keeping our children safe and healthy. To protect them, we put them in child safety seats, place them “back to sleep,” 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 19 through 25, 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 Dr. Dennis Norfleet, interim director of the Oswego County Health Department. “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.”
Most 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 14 potentially serious vaccine-preventable diseases: measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), polio, Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib disease), Hepatitis A and B, varicella (chickenpox), rotovirus, pneumococcal disease and influenza,” said Dr. Norfleet. “Combination vaccines protect your child against more than one disease with at single shot. This reduces the number of shots and office visits your child needs.”
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 pertussis or whooping cough are among children under six months of age.
“The ages that doctors recommend shots be given 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 are the diseases and complications that these vaccines prevent,” he said.
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,” Dr. Norfleet said. “The 14 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. on the first and third Fridays of the month at the H. Douglas Barclay Courthouse in Pulaski, and from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. every Friday at the Nick Sterio Public Health Clinic, 70 Bunner St., in Oswego.
For more information on childhood immunizations, talk to your child's health care provider, or call the Oswego County Health Department weekdays at 349-3547 or 1-800-596-3200, ext. 3547.
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