Many health organizations list vaccines in their list of "Top 10 Public Health Achievements." One main reason is that vaccines have successfully prevented an uncountable number of complications and deaths from many diseases, such as hepatitis, polio, and rotavirus. Not only do vaccines benefit the person who receives them, but they indirectly prevent the spread of more disease.
National Infant Immunization Week will be celebrated this year from April 23 to 30, 2011. It is a time to emphasize the importance of infants and young children getting all of the vaccines available and getting them on time. Almost 12,000 infants are born each day in our country and they all need protection from infectious diseases.
You may be thinking, "But I haven't heard of anyone having polio or tetanus. Why do we still need to give those shots to babies?" The answer is that vaccines have been instrumental in drastically reducing the number of disease cases, but those bacteria and viruses are still out there. Infants are one of the most vulnerable groups of people when it comes to infections and vaccines can protect them.
Just like any drug that is developed, vaccines undergo rigorous testing and evaluation before being released for use. Vaccines are also monitored after release to ensure continuing safety. Receiving a vaccine is far safer than leaving an infant at risk of contracting whooping cough (pertussis) or influenza (respiratory flu).
Parents may be confused by the changing schedule, especially if a new vaccine is added or an additional dose of an existing one is recommended. I encourage all parents to ask their health care professional about childhood vaccines and to bring their child's shot record to every visit. There are two websites that contain complete and reliable information about each vaccine:
Not only are parents encouraged to keep their infant up-to-date with their vaccines, but health care professional that see infants and families also need to keep up-to-date on schedule changes, new vaccines, and have accurate answers to their patients' questions. The previous websites also have professional sections that can be of assistance.
If you have any questions about vaccines, please talk to your health care profession or call the Marietta City Health Department at (740) 373-0611, ext. 186. Immunizations are given every Monday from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. On the first Monday of each month, we are open until 6:30 p.m.
Cindy Farr is a registered nurse for the Marietta City Health Department, 304 Putnam St., Marietta.