Without question, childhood immunizations against infectious diseases are miracles of modern medicine. Vaccines alone are responsible for lower infant and child mortality rates, improved health, and longer life spans. Other factors, such as improved nutrition and access to medical care, enhance the public health gains acquired through vaccinations. Today, the vast majority of American parents accept the scientific evidence and expert consensus that vaccines safely and effectively prevent life- and limb-threatening infections in human beings, especially in those who are most vulnerable to contract them: Our children.
Kids don’t get a say on whether or not they receive these life-saving vaccines. They receive them, or they don’t, only at the pleasure or fear of their parents and guardians. This is one reason children are so vulnerable: They depend on their adult caretakers to do the right thing on their behalf. Parents today can be forgiven if they don’t view immunizations as existential necessities. After all, they’ve never known a person dying from smallpox, or seen a person in an iron lung suffering from polio or a child covered from head to toe with chickenpox. I can understand that parents today don’t share the same extreme relief my own parents felt on the days I visited my pediatrician to get an oral polio vaccine or a measles shot. They had seen it all, experienced some of it themselves, and didn’t take the miracle of vaccines for granted. Neither did pediatrician Wendy Sue Swanson when she learned a child in her son’s classroom had chickenpox:
From the moment we become parents, we work to keep our children’s environment safe. We child-proof our homes and make sure poisons and dangerous objects are secured wherever our kids spend time. But we aren’t always as diligent about making sure the community spaces where our children learn and play are protected from threats we can’t see, like infectious diseases…
Every parent should know if their child resides, learns, and plays in a safe environment, and knowing their child’s “world” is up-to-date on vaccines is an important data point.
By immunizing infants and children against the scourge of vaccine-preventable infections, we also immunize families and communities. However, not all children and communities are equally protected because not all of them have high immunization rates. Click here to view an interactive infographic from the American Academy of Pediatrics and compare childhood immunization rates by state.
*** Beginning January 22, 2018, Pediatric Alliance and our pediatric colleagues from around the United States are participating in an AAP-sponsored immunization advocacy campaign on social media. Please follow all our social media posts during this project on Facebook and Twitter.
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