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Immunizations: Stopping Deadly Disease

by Jessica Osman, DO

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It is hard to believe, but in 2019 we are talking about a measles outbreak. Already more than 225 cases have been confirmed this year and 12 states have reported cases. This outbreak is once again bringing infant immunizations into focus. As we celebrate the 25th anniversary of National Infant Immunization Week from April 27 through May 4, it is a good time to highlight the importance of protecting infants from vaccine-preventable diseases. 

Some diseases are so rare that parents sometimes ask if vaccines for them are even needed. But as the measles outbreak has shown, diseases that can be prevented by vaccines still exist in the world—even in the U.S. Encouragingly, the immunization rate for measles, mumps, and rubella among Pennsylvania kindergartners is over 96 percent.

Immunizations are intended to protect your child when they are not strong enough to fight life-threatening diseases. Your child isn’t born with an immune system that can protect them from most diseases. By following a vaccination schedule, you can protect your child and others in the community from serious illness, possibly even death.

Unfortunately, misinformation about vaccines make some parents decide not to immunize their children. It is important to get your information from a trusted source so you do not put your children or others at risk. To see the complete list of vaccinations with recommended timing you can visit https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/. The website also has scientific information on the safety of vaccinations. 

Following the recommended vaccination schedule will protect your child from 14 preventable diseases:

  • Chickenpox
  • Diptheria
  • Haemophilus Influenza Type B
  • Hepatitis A
  • Hepatitis B
  • Influenza
  • Measles
  • Meningitis(meningococcal)
  • Mumps
  • Pertussis (whopping cough)
  • Polio
  • Pneumococcal
  • Rotavirus
  • Rubella
  • Tetanus

When children are not vaccinated, they are at increased risk and can spread diseases to others in their family and community, including babies who are too young to be fully protected. With the current measles outbreak, some of the children who contracted measles were too young to have received adequate dosing of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine—leaving them vulnerable to an outbreak.

Infant Vaccine Schedule

Protecting your child from preventable disease starts even before they’re born. If you are pregnant, it is recommended that you receive some vaccines during the third trimester to help protect your baby until he or she is old enough to receive vaccinations. Then, you should follow the schedule recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to provide your baby immunity before they are likely to be exposed to the diseases. 

A lot of research went into creating the immunization schedule doctors use, and it has been proven safe by countless studies and research. Still, some parents choose to spread out vaccines because they're concerned about the number of shots their babies get at each checkup. Studies show that many babies on alternative immunization schedules never get all the vaccines they need. 

If you can’t afford to vaccinate your child, the CDC offers a program which offers free vaccines. Call toll free at 800-232-4636 to find out where you can get free vaccinations for your child if you qualify. If you have questions about the childhood immunization schedule, talk with your doctor.  

Dr. Jessica Osman received her medical degree from Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. She is board certified in pediatrics and is also a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics and a member of the American Osteopathic Association. She practices with Mark Odorizzi, DO, at Susquehanna Pediatrics at South Williamsport, 6 E. Mountain Ave., South Williamsport. To learn more call 570 321-1665.