July 24, 2020
August is National Immunization Awareness Month so it’s a good time to talk about the importance of vaccinations for you and your kids – and a reminder to stay up to date on their shot schedule.
Vaccines prevent the spread of dangerous and contagious diseases. Some of these diseases are transmitted by air, some by direct contact, some by contaminated food, some through cuts in the skin. Vaccines have led to a dramatic decline in the number of infectious diseases in the country and the state of California.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), vaccines have prevented 322 million illnesses, 21 million hospitalizations and 732,000 deaths in children born between 1994 and 2013. They not only help you avoid getting a disease, they help you from spreading it. You can protect the people around you, including infants, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems such as transplant recipients and those with cancer. Children under age 5 are especially susceptible to diseases because their immune systems are still trying to build up defenses to fight infection.
You may wonder why someone in California should vaccinate against a disease if it’s only prevalent now in a country halfway around the world. However, as people travel, diseases can travel.
Measles is an example of that. It was declared “eliminated” from the U.S. in the year 2000. However, in 2015, there was an outbreak of measles at Disneyland. It is highly contagious. Once a person has been exposed to the airborne virus, the disease can be transmitted even before the infected person shows any symptoms. It quickly grew into an outbreak of 150 cases over seven states, Mexico and Canada. One out of every 20 children with measles gets pneumonia and one in four measles patients requires hospitalization. Complications from the disease include encephalitis (swelling of the brain) that can lead to convulsion, permanent hearing loss or intellectual disability. The CDC now calls measles a leading cause of vaccine-preventable infant mortality.
As another example, the CDC recommends that children get a yearly flu vaccine. There’s even a nasal spray instead of a shot for those that don’t like needles. Yet, each year, millions of children in the U.S. come down with the flu. Children younger than 5 years old usually require medical care if they contract the flu. It can lead to ear infections and a worsening of long-term conditions like heart disease and asthma. Sadly, 166 children died in the 2019 – 2020 flu season, which ended in April. As a comparison, the CDC has received reports of six deaths in children, as of July 15, who tested positive for COVID-19 and then developed multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C).
Even before you become pregnant, it’s a good idea to make sure you are up to date on your vaccines. One important vaccination is for rubella, a contagious disease that can be dangerous for pregnant women. In the mid-1960s, there was an epidemic of rubella, also known as German measles. It caused 11,000 miscarriages, killed 2,000 babies and caused serious birth defects. The best protection against rubella is the MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine. Most adults received this vaccination as children but it’s best to confirm it. Ask your doctor for a pre-pregnancy blood test to check your immunity.
You can also help your baby while you are pregnant by passing on protection against whooping cough and flu. This will provide both you and your baby with immunity through their first months. Whooping cough is a life-threatening disease for babies. Despite its name, many don’t cough. Instead, they turn blue and stop breathing altogether. And the flu can cause severe complications in pregnant women.
If you plan to travel while pregnant or you will be working in a lab and exposed to diseases, ask your doctor about other vaccinations that may be beneficial. Just note that it takes about two weeks after your vaccination for your body to develop antibodies.
California law requires children to be immunized. Children are only exempt if a parent or guardian submits a written statement from a licensed physician. Only you and your doctor can determine that together.
Talk with your child’s doctor at Riverside Medical Clinic if you have any questions about vaccines. Here are some topics you may want to ask about…
For more information, the CDC has an easy-to-read vaccine resource guide for parents that you can access here. You can also check out the state of California’s handy guide at www.shotsforschool.org. Call RMC to schedule your family’s vaccinations at 951-683-6370.