Are your older kids getting ready to go to school? Are you shopping for their clothes and book bags? Don’t forget their vaccinations, too.
Immunizations are responsible for eliminating polio and smallpox in the United States, and they have seriously reduced the number of deaths from chickenpox. However, infectious diseases like viral hepatitis, influenza, and tuberculosis (TB) remain a major cause of illness, disability, and death.
Despite progress, approximately 42,000 adults and 300 children in the United States die each year from vaccine-preventable diseases, according to the US Dept. of Health & Human Services. Communities with pockets of unvaccinated and under-vaccinated populations are at increased risk for outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases. In 2008, measles that were brought in from other countries resulted in 140 reported cases here — nearly a 3-fold increase over the previous year. The appearance of new or replacement strains of vaccine-preventable disease can result in a major increase in serious illnesses and death.
Respiratory infectious diseases, like the flu and pneumonia, continue to be leading causes of pediatric hospitalization and outpatient visits in the United States. On average, the flu leads to more than 200,000 hospitalizations and 36,000 deaths each year. The 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic caused an estimated 270,000 hospitalizations and 12,270 deaths in less than a year.
A major goal of Healthy People 2020 is to protect Americans against infectious diseases by increasing immunization in communities nationwide. This can only be achieved if we all pay attention and keep up with our vaccinations throughout our lives. So, while you’re picking up your child’s papers, pencils and snow parkas, be sure to remember to get his vaccinations, too. And don’t forget to bring along his brothers and sisters!