The importance of vaccinating our children against preventable diseases.
By Francisco Garcia
Pima County Health Department Medical Director
Everyone has heard the news about the measles outbreak that happened at Disneyland and the few cases Arizona has seen in Pinal and Maricopa Counties. Sadly, this situation reminds us again of the importance of vaccinating our children against preventable diseases.
Last year I wrote about a whooping cough (pertussis) outbreak in our community that sent a little one to the ICU and kept many other children home from school for an extended period of time. I said then that the situation could have been avoided or the numbers of children affected greatly reduced had these been children been immunized against whooping cough.
Today, I am repeating that message – except this time in regard to measles. I cannot emphasize enough that the children who were sickened at Disneyland and the many more who were exposed to measles could have avoided this risk if they had been vaccinated.
I know there are questions about the safety of vaccines, but as a physician, I can assure you that vaccinations go through years of rigorous testing and are under constant scrutiny to determine their safety and effectiveness. As with any medication, there is a small risk of a negative reaction, and it is important to have a discussion with your pediatrician or primary care practitioner about any questions you might have. But, I assure you that the risks associated with contracting measles greatly outweigh the small chance of a negative vaccine reaction for most of the population.
As your public health doctor, I worry for all of our children. As a parent, I have faced this decision myself and have chosen to vaccinate my children because I have seen firsthand the ravages of these diseases as a doctor. A child with measles is a child suffering from a fever that can be as high as 104, terrible sore throat, coughing, inflamed eyes and a rash that burns and itches continually. They are not sick for just one or two days, but for more than a week, and they are miserable the entire time.
Vaccines are the single most effective way to protect our children and ourselves from preventable diseases such as measles, mumps and whooping cough. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control, between 1953 and 1963, when the measles vaccine became available, “nearly all children got measles by the time they were 15 years of age (and) yearly 400 to 500 people died, 48,000 were hospitalized, and 4,000 suffered encephalitis (swelling of the brain) from measles.”
It is my hope that parents in our community will be spared the distress that accompanies this disease. Please talk to your child’s doctor or health clinic to make sure your children’s vaccinations are up-to-date. Additionally, speak to your doctor to make sure you have received the appropriate vaccinations for adults. Thank you for your help to keep our community safe and reducing the risks of spreading disease.