Feb. 9 editorial: Shots save

Feb. 9, 2011

News item: Hood River County Public Health has mailed out 375 letters to parents, advising them that their children may be excluded from school beginning Feb. 16 if immunization records are not up-to-date for their children. (This edition, page B5)

State law requires it, and the county is serious about enforcement. All children in public and private schools, preschools, Head Start and certified child care facilities must be up-to-date on their immunizations, or provide a documented religious or medical exemption.

The Oregon Immunization Program and the county are advising parents of this critical deadline: If their records on file show missing immunizations, or do not have proper documentation for religious or medical waivers, youngsters will not be allowed to attend school or day care.

It's important, for the public's health, that all children remain current on their immunizations.

Of special note: Parents of children through age 4 should check to make sure their children's Hib immunizations are current. In recent years, there was a shortage of the Hib vaccine that protects against Haemophilus influenzae type B, a severe bacterial disease, so children weren't required to be up-to-date - but Hib vaccine is now plentiful.

Courtesy of the American Academy of Pediatricians, presented here are four sound reasons, some of which you might not have thought of, for seeking appropriate vaccinations for all children.

Protecting the vulnerable: Children with certain health problems may need to avoid some vaccines or get them later. For instance, those with lung or kidney conditions, or those who have problems with their immune systems should not get vaccines that are made with live viruses.

To protect these children it is very important for others to be vaccinated.

Disease reduction: Vaccinations have reduced the number of infections from vaccine-preventable diseases by more than 90 percent.

Because of vaccines, many of these diseases are not as common as they once were. However, the bacteria and viruses that cause them still exist.

For example, before the Hib vaccine was developed in the 1980s; there were about 20,000 cases of Hib disease in the United States a year.

Today there are fewer than 100 cases a year. However, the bacteria that cause Hib disease still exist. That is why children need the vaccine to be protected.

Globalization: In the United States vaccines protect children from many diseases. However, in many parts of the world vaccine-preventable diseases are still common. Because diseases may be brought into the United States by Americans who travel abroad or from people visiting areas with current disease outbreaks, it's important that your child is vaccinated.

Effectiveness: Millions of children have been protected against serious illnesses because they were immunized. Most childhood vaccines are 90 to 99 percent effective in preventing disease. If a vaccinated child does get the disease, the symptoms are usually milder with less serious side effects or complications than in a child who hasn't been vaccinated.

So what can a parent do? In addition to vaccines available from your private health provider, the Hood River County Public Health Department offers them as well.

The HRCPD office is located at 1109 June St. and is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. No appointment is necessary for immunizations. No one can be turned away from a local health department because of the inability to pay for required vaccines.

Additional information on school immunizations can be found at the Immunization Program website at www.oregon.gov/DHS/ph/imm/school.

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