|"Vaccination Is the Best Protection" by Allen Weiss, MD, MBA, President & CEO|
Vaccination Is the Best Protection
August 1st, 2012 - As children start back to school we all should be reminded of the importance and safety of vaccination. Vaccination is the best protection against sixteen major diseases and is among the greatest gifts a parent can give a child, according to American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
“Immunization has been the most successful public health program of the 20th century,” stated Dr. Renee Jenkins, AAP President. In fact, the success of vaccination has led to some of the current complacency among parents of school age children who have never been afflicted with measles, mumps, whooping cough or – even worse – smallpox and polio.
By never having a friend or acquaintance with polio, which is wonderful and due to an intense and effective vaccination program, the current generation of parents of young children do not have the fear to motivate them to have their kids protected by vaccination.
Prior to 1955 when the polio vaccine was introduced, more than 16,000 cases of paralytic polio were reported in the U.S., leading to nearly 1,900 deaths. Many older victims of polio living today suffer from post-polio syndrome, causing complex orthopedic problems.
In 2008, due to intense vaccination worldwide – lead by the World Health Organization and Rotary Foundation – polio has been totally eliminated in all but four countries: Nigeria, India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.
Locally, we have not eradicated childhood diseases. Recently, we had two children in Collier County with whooping cough (Pertussis), who had not been immunized. By vaccinating appropriately, we can have other previously deadly and devastating illnesses eliminated.
Measles, for example, was thought to have all but disappeared in the United States by 2000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. This pronouncement was made possible due to the widely accepted and highly-implemented vaccination process. However, due to the recent decision of some parents not to immunize their children, there have been 131 cases of measles diagnosed since 2008[in this country resulting in fifteen children under the age of twenty being hospitalized. Typically, those affected children had been exposed to individuals who had just returned from overseas travel.
Another important and effective preventative benefit is that of “herd immunity.” Herd immunity is the advantage everyone receives from a population which has a high rate of vaccination. Immunizing a critical percentage of the population helps prevent the spread of a disease from one person to another. Thus, children who are too young to be vaccinated or frail elderly adults who are too ill to immunize are indirectly protected by their surrounding “herd.”
Vaccine safety has been a controversial topic. Misinformation regarding vaccines has been widely circulated by a few uninformed, though influential, people. The U. S. immunization program is among the safest in the world. Today’s vaccines have stood the test of time. While there is always a minute risk with anything, in 2007 vaccines were estimated to have saved 33,000 lives and prevented 14 million infections.
We have so much accurate and timely information at our fingertips. Listening to your pediatrician or physician who is up to date is the best source of knowledge. Rumors about autism being caused by vaccines have been thoroughly disproved, with the original article being retracted.
There is so much good preventive medicine readily available today, with vaccines being a perfect example. Let’s protect our children and ourselves by being smart and proactive: get them immunized!
Past Health Advice Articles
Dr. Allen Weiss is CEO & President of the NCH Healthcare System. He is board certified in Internal Medicine, Rheumatology and Geriatrics, and was in private practice in Naples, Florida from 1977 - 2000. Dr. Weiss is active in a variety of professional organizations and boards, and has been published in numerous medical journals, including the American Journal of Medicine and the Journal of Clinical Investigation.