Tuesday, December 6, 2011
1. Immunize your child and promote childhood immunization. If your infant is six months of age or more, get her immunized against the flu every year. Currently, experts recommend that children receive protection against hepatitis (A and B), diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus, meningitis-causing bacteria (H. influenzae, N.meningiditis and S. pneumoniae), rotavirus, measles, mumps, German measles, chicken pox, influenza and human papillomavirus. None of these vaccines are recommended for any reason OTHER than the fact that each and every one of these diseases can lead to death or permanent harm. It saddens me to recall that I have personally cared for infants and children who have died from preventable meningitis. I helped run the (unsuccessful) "code" on a boy with chicken pox whose heart stopped when fluid collected around his heart. And I cared for another school-aged child who lapsed into coma and later succumbed to encephalitis due to influenza. This, I'm afraid to say, is a very partial list.
Lately we've seen a large number of whooping cough cases in Huntington township. Many were in unimmunized children. In other cases, it was because unimmunized persons served as the "lit match" to start an outbreak that also affected individuals who received vaccine but whose immune system did not fully protect them. You see, if pretty much everyone gets immunized, then everyone benefits.
The current level of public skepticism about vaccines is of deep concern to the healthcare community. Somehow, fiction is becoming accepted "fact" by some, while a few strident spokespersons are shouting down the calmer but worried voices of vaccine experts and child health advocates. What to do? Go to the CDC and AAP websites and tour the sections on immunization. Write down your questions. Talk to your pediatrician. Unfortunately, there is no such option as "deciding not to decide." Not immunizing IS a decision. And a serious one.
Next installment will feature some lightness of being! Promise! I'm thinking...Music and Children. Hoping your Season is full of wonder...