Parents Encouraged To Immunize Their Children
Vaccines have eliminated or reduced many of the most devastating childhood illnesses and are a critical component of the nation's public health efforts.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, before immunization:
-- Over 13,000 people in the U.S. contracted paralytic polio each year. Thousands of children were left in crutches, braces, wheelchairs and iron lungs.
-- 450 people died each year in the U.S. from measles, one of the most infectious diseases in the world.
-- 600 American children died each year of Hib meningitis. Hundreds more were left with deafness, seizures or mental retardation.
-- 9,000 people - mostly children - died of pertussis, or whooping cough, in the U.S every year. Many infants who survived suffered permanent brain damage.
-- 6,100 people in the U.S. died of invasive pneumococcal disease each year. Many children developed long-term complications such as deafness or seizures.
-- An estimated 20,000 infants born to infected mothers during a rubella epidemic in 1964-65 contracted congenital rubella syndrome, an illness whose symptoms include deafness, blindness and mental retardation.
-- 1,314 people contracted tetanus annually; one-fifth died of the infection. Tetanus bacteria live in the soil and are resistant to germ-killing cleaners.
Vaccines are the first and best line of defense to protect the infants and children who are most vulnerable to these deadly viruses and bacteria. While many young parents today have never witnessed a case of polio, measles or rubella, these diseases still circulate in the world and would return to the U.S. if immunization rates were to fall. Outbreaks of measles and whooping cough in the U.S. in recent years show how quickly and easily these diseases can spread among unvaccinated populations.
"Immunizing their child is the single best thing parents can do to ensure their child's health," said Renee R. Jenkins, MD, FAAP, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics. "The benefits of vaccines far outweigh the risks. I firmly believe in the importance and safety of vaccines, as a doctor, as a parent and as a new grandparent."