2014-05-08 / Lifestyles

Health officials urge on-time vaccinations for children

LANSING – The Michigan Department of Community Health is reminding residents about the importance of protecting infants from vaccine-preventable diseases. While feeding and sleep schedules help keep children healthy, vaccinating on time is the best way to help protect against 14 serious and potentially deadly diseases before a child’s second birthday.

A key vaccine-preventable disease of concern is measles. In 2013, Michigan recorded five measles cases. While that may seem like a small number, it is the most cases in the state since 1999. Even one case of measles is cause for great concern to officials and doctors because the disease has been eliminated from the western hemisphere but can spread easily and quickly when it gets into vulnerable communities. Measles can come into the U.S. by unvaccinated people who travel in areas of the world where it continues to be common. Nationally, there were 187 cases in 2013, which is worrisome when compared to the 60 cases seen in a typical recent year.

Another disease that can be prevented by vaccination is pertussis – also called whooping cough. In 2013, nearly 1,000 cases of whooping cough were reported in Michigan, and many others may have gone undiagnosed and/ or reported. Although vaccines against pertussis are not perfect, there is growing evidence that being vaccinated continues to be very important because it helps protect against a severe, prolonged, or complicated case of the disease in those instances where it does not prevent the infection altogether.

Public health and medical experts base their vaccine recommendations on many factors. They study information about diseases and vaccines very carefully to decide which vaccines kids should get and when they should get them for best protection. Although the number of vaccines a child needs in the first two years may seem like a lot, doctors know a great deal about the human immune system, and a healthy baby’s immune system can handle getting all vaccines as they are recommended.

“The recommended vaccination schedule is designed to provide protection early in life, when babies are most vulnerable and before they’re likely to be exposed to diseases,” said Dr. Matthew Davis, Chief Medical Executive for the MDCH. “There is no known benefit to delaying vaccination. In fact, delaying or avoiding vaccination puts babies at risk of getting sick and severely ill. Unvaccinated children are left vulnerable to catch serious diseases, at a time of life when they can be effectively protected.”

When parents choose not to vaccinate or to follow a delayed schedule, children are left unprotected against diseases that still circulate in this country, like measles and whooping cough. Staying on track with the immunization schedule ensures that children have the best protection against diseases like these by age two. In addition, vaccinating young children in a timely way can help protect adults against diseases, such as pneumonia caused by pneumococcus.

“Childhood vaccines have been called one of the greatest triumphs in public health in the 20th century,” says Dr. Davis. “Vaccines can also be a great success story of the 21st century, if we vaccinate our kids on time and with all of the vaccines we now have available.”

If you have questions about the childhood immunization schedule, talk with your child’s doctor or nurse. For more information about vaccines, visit www.michigan.gov/ immunize or http://www.cdc.gov/ vaccines/parents/index.html.

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