Why You Have to Vaccinate

7 05 2012

In 2000, public health workers slapped high fives and declared measles eliminated in the U.S. This meant that the disease wasn’t being passed person-to-person in this country.

In 2011, we had 222 cases of measles in the U.S.—a 15-year high.

Most of the 222 infected individuals were either unvaccinated or their vaccination status was unknown.

How did this happen? The answer is, almost all of the infections were imported. They came from U.S. residents returning from trips outside the country, or from visitors from foreign lands. The travelers carried the germ and, in some cases, infected others once they arrived.

Almost half of these cases came from countries with easy access to vaccines; the WHO European Region. The rub is, there are some Europeans who choose not to vaccinate themselves or their children, and the same is true in this country.

When a disease is floating around a community, it finds those who are unprotected and boom, we have disease outbreaks.

Most of the time, most of the diseases that are vaccine-preventable are not going to kill a child. They might not hospitalize him, or even make him feel really bad.

But, no one can say which disease will harm which child, and how much harm it will cause.

Kids do die from measles and chickenpox and other vaccine-preventable diseases. Or they don’t die and they only lose a limb, or their hearing, or they just need a liver transplant. Or any number of other health problems may occur that are still better than dying.

But like I said, no one can say how one child will be affected by one disease. So when I answer the phone here at PKIDs, and a parent on the other end asks if they really need to vaccinate their child against XYZ disease, I don’t have a problem telling them: you really do.

By Trish Parnell

Image courtesy of Vox efx


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