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Vaccination: An Important Part of Protecting Your Child
National Infant Immunization Week (NIIW), April 26toMay 3, 2014, is an annual observance that highlights the importance of early childhood vaccination and the successes that have come from the United States’ vaccination program. Vaccines are considered to be one of the greatest public health achievements, having drastically reduced and in some cases eradicated deadly infectious diseases that plagued generations before us. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently estimated that, “among children born during 1994–2013, vaccination will prevent an estimated 322 million illnesses, 21 million hospitalizations, and 732,000 deaths over the course of their lifetimes, at a net savings of $295 billion in direct costs and $1.38 trillion in total societal costs.”
Because of the success of vaccines in reducing some diseases, it's easy to think of vaccine-preventable diseases as diseases of the past. But the truth is they still exist. Children in the United States can—and do— still get some of these diseases, particularly among the unimmunized and in communities where immunization rates have declined. This has been exemplified by the nationwide increase in measles cases over the last year. During 2013 the U.S. experienced an increase in measles cases nationwide and in some individual states, including an outbreak of 58 cases in New York City that was the largest reported outbreak of measles in the U.S. since 1996. The rise in measles cases has carried over into 2014, resulting in 13 different measles outbreaks across the U.S to date.
Fortunately, we have not seen this trend spill over into West Virginia. West Virginia’s school immunization requirements have kept immunization rates high among students. In fact, the CDC found that during the 2012-2013 school year 96.3% of students entering kindergarten in West Virginia had received MMR (Measles, Mumps, and Rubella) vaccination, surpassing the national coverage rate of 94.5%. “Our school immunization requirements have played a major role in preventing outbreaks of preventable diseases and keeping our students and communities healthy,” said Courtney Kovach, Co-Chair of the West Virginia Immunization Network and Clinical Director at Lincoln Primary Care Center/Southern West Virginia Health System. “But we still have a lot of work to do,” she added.
Although vaccination coverage among students entering school in West Virginia is very high, West Virginia ranks second to last for vaccination coverage of young children, with only 60.8% of children aged 19–35 months being up-to-date on their vaccinations. “When parents choose not to have their children vaccinated or to follow a delayed immunization schedule, their children are left vulnerable and unprotected and against diseases that are easily prevented,” noted Kovach.
Vaccinating children on time is the best way to protect them against 14 serious and potentially deadly diseases before their second birthday. Getting children all the vaccines they need by age two is one of the best things parents can do to help keep their children safe and healthy. If you have questions about the childhood immunization schedule, talk with your child’s healthcare. For more information about vaccines, go to www.cdc.gov/vaccines/parents.