Every Child By Two’s State of the ImmUnion campaign is honoring National Immunization Awareness Month (#NIAM16) with a Blog Relay highlighting the importance of vaccines across the lifespan.
In this third guest post, we hear about the importance of protecting babies and young children from vaccine-preventable diseases from the perspective of a statewide non-profit. The mission of the Colorado Children’s Immunization Coalition is to mobilize diverse partners and families in an effort to advance children’s health through immunizations.
To celebrate the gift of vaccines and to remind parents, grandparents, caregivers, and others of the important role vaccines play in their little one’s early years, we’re highlighting the top 10 things parents should know about childhood immunizations.
1. Vaccines save lives.
Simply put, vaccines work! The World Health Organization estimates that vaccines save 2.5 million children’s lives every year. In fact, immunization is considered one of the greatest public health achievements of the 20th century.
Vaccines have reduced and, in some cases, eliminated many diseases that killed or severely disabled people just a few generations ago. For example, smallpox vaccination eradicated that disease worldwide, and we’re getting closer than ever to a polio-free world.
Here in Colorado, vaccination prevented more than 8,600 child hospitalizations in just one year!
2. Vaccines are safe.
Vaccines are thoroughly tested before licensing and carefully monitored after they are licensed to ensure that they are safe. See The Journey of Your Child’s Vaccine infographic to learn more about the vaccine testing and approval process.
Like any medication or medical intervention, vaccines can cause adverse reactions. The most common vaccine side effects are mild (e.g. a sore arm or mild fever). In many cases, the risk of a serious allergic reaction to a vaccine is 1 in one million. Vaccines will involve some discomfort and may cause pain, redness, or tenderness at the site of injection, but this is minimal compared to the pain, trauma, and possible long-term complications of the diseases these vaccines prevent. The disease-protection benefits of getting vaccines are much greater than the risk of possible side effects. Not vaccinating places children at risk for dangerous and potentially fatal vaccine-preventable illnesses.
3. Young children are especially vulnerable to vaccine-preventable diseases and their complications.
Children under the age of five are most at risk for vaccine-preventable diseases and their complications. In 2014, 63.8 percent of children hospitalized with vaccine-preventable disease in Colorado were four years of age or younger. Unfortunately, in the same year over 25.7 percent of two-year-olds in Colorado had not received all recommended vaccines.
Child care facilities, preschool programs and schools are prone to outbreaks of infectious diseases. Children in these settings can easily spread illnesses to one another due to poor hand washing, not covering their coughs, and other factors such as interacting in crowded environments. Make sure you are sending your child to child care and school safe!
4. Vaccine-preventable diseases still exist.
Diseases like polio, measles, and mumps are not diseases of the past; vaccine-preventable diseases are still common in many parts of the world. However, most young parents in the U.S. have never seen the devastating effects that diseases like measles or rubella can have on a family or community, and the benefits of vaccination are often taken for granted. But the truth is they still exist.
For example, measles continues to be brought into the United States by unvaccinated travelers who are infected while in other countries. When measles gets into communities of unvaccinated people in the U.S. (such as people who refuse vaccines for religious, philosophical or personal reasons), outbreaks are more likely to occur. While we have the ability to prevent these diseases from harming our most vulnerable, such as babies, the elderly and the immunocompromised, gaps in immunization coverage have allowed these diseases to sneak back into our daily lives. Last year’s measles outbreak was a perfect example of how quickly infectious diseases can spread when they reach groups of people who aren’t vaccinated.
Diseases know no boarders, and with an increasingly transient global society it is more important than ever to ensure our little ones are protected.
5. Vaccines also save money.
Earlier this week ABC News’ Dr. Richard Besser explained that children deserve to be protected from disease while in public school. With rising school vaccine exemption rates and pockets of unvaccinated students, our children and our communities are at risk of suffering from unnecessary disease outbreaks. It’s what Dr. Besser explains as a “ticking time bomb“. Several states, such as WA, OR, VT and CA, have already taken measures to help increase immunization rates by modifying the way parents file for school vaccine exemptions. By ensuring parents understand the benefits and risks of vaccines, and by requiring more than just a parental signature to secure an exemption, these states are beginning to see a rise in student immunization rates. And Colorado is the latest state to stand up for student health with the introduction of Colorado House Bill 1288.
Over the past few months the Colorado Children’s Immunization Coalition has been keeping us informed about HB 1288 and how it is progressing through the state legislature. The bill preserves parental rights and continues to allow for parents to make choices for their children, but it also protects public health by ensuring parents are making well-informed and carefully considered decisions about immunizations. Under Colorado law today, parent signature is the only requirement to elect a personal belief exemption. This means it’s easier and more convenient to elect a personal belief exemption than to uphold the requirement to provide immunization records to a child care provider or school. It’s time we create a fair process for all parents, which will reduce the likelihood of parents are opting out of vaccinating their children as a matter of convenience.
What House Bill 1288 does:
HB 1288 requires that parents electing a personal belief exemption demonstrate that they understand the benefits and risk of vaccination, both for their child and the community. This is done by submitting a personal belief exemption that includes the signature of a health care provider licensed to administer vaccines, or by taking an online education module and submitting the certificate of completion to the child care provider or school. One of the most critical components of HB 1288 is that it also allows parents the right to access vaccination rates for all Colorado child care centers and schools. Every parent has a right to know the percentage of unvaccinated students are attending their child’s school so that they are free to make the best choice for the health of their child.
Why House Bill 1288 is important to everyone, not just for children in Colorado:
Unfortunately, bad news often overshadows the good. As recent posts have focused on lawsuits, irresponsible celebrity doctors and measles outbreaks, I thought it might be time to focus on some positive immunization messages. I’ll admit, this post is extremely overdue. I have wanted to applaud the fabulous efforts of the Colorado Children’s Immunization Coalition for quite a while. Their Immunize for Good website has proven to be a valuable resource, and I want to ensure that parents all over the country benefit from the excellent work they have done.
In acknowledging that “Most Parents Are Doing It“, this site provides reassurance to parents who may be confused by the bombardment of anti-vaccine messaging. It is clear that their direct, straightforward approach is an effective way to communicate to today’s savvy parents. The site clearly outlines the importance of immunizations, while also thoroughly addressing common misconceptions about vaccines, how they are made, the way in which they work, their ingredients and the scientific studies that demonstrate their safety. While there are certainly other sites that do the same, this particular campaign is very authentic, tackling tough concerns in a fresh new way that is both bold and sensitive. One particular section that I find most helpful is the “Trusted Resources“. While I had expected this to be a simple list of organizations, I was delighted to see that this section attempts to educate parents on how to identify a “trusted” resource. Not only are the suggestions here relevant for parents who want to reference credible information, but by outlining specific steps, the suggestion is that parents must learn to decipher the validity of the information that they access online.
Overall, this site is so much more than “good”. It’s simply great! My favorite take-away is this video, entitled The Bathroom Tango. It highlights the everyday steps parents take to protect their children. I must admit, I have mastered the bathroom tango myself, and I recall the days when I would do the dance with several children at the same time. What parent can’t relate to this?
So whether you live in Colorado or Iowa, Tennessee or Washington, be sure to check out the Immunize For Good website and spread the “good” word.