Ensure infants are protected

Published 11:27 am Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Last year’s cases of whooping cough in Southwest Health District were a reminder that children are at risk of serious and life-threatening diseases and continue to need the protection provided by vaccines, says Southwest District Health Immunization Coordinator Sue Dale.

“The annual observance of National Infant Immunization Week highlights the importance of protecting infants from vaccine-preventable diseases,” Dale said. “It also celebrates the achievements of immunization programs in promoting healthy communities.”

This year’s observance is April 23-30.

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“Children in the United States still get still get vaccine-preventable diseases. Southwest Health District and Georgia weren’t the only places to see cases of pertussis—also known as whooping cough—recently. It has also shown up in California, Texas and elsewhere,” Dale said.

In 2010 the United States had more than 21,000 cases of whooping cough reported and 26 deaths, most in children younger than six months.

Unfortunately, some babies are too young to be completely vaccinated and some people may not be able to receive certain vaccinations due to severe allergies, weakened immune systems from conditions like leukemia, or other reasons.

“To help keep them safe, it is important that you and your children who are able to get vaccinated are fully immunized. This not only protects your family, but also helps prevent the spread of these diseases to your friends and loved ones,” Dale said.

She pointed out immunizations can save families time and money as well as pain and suffering.

“A child with a vaccine-preventable disease can be denied attendance at schools or childcare facilities,” Dale said. “Some vaccine-preventable diseases can result in prolonged disabilities and can take a financial toll because of lost time at work, medical bills or long-term disability.”

In contrast, getting vaccinated against the 14 vaccine-preventable childhood diseases is a good investment and is usually covered by insurance, she said.

“The Vaccines for Children program is a federally funded program that provides vaccines at no cost to children from lower-income families,” Dale said.

To find out more about the VFC program or about immunizations against vaccine-preventable childhood diseases, contact your county health department or go online to www.southwestgeorgiapublichealth.org.