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Mommy! I don’t want a shot!

Yes, it’s August and kids are getting ready to go back to school. Part of that is coming in for kindergarten physicals, sports physicals, and annual physical exams.  A big part of those exams are updating vaccinations to prevent infectious diseases that have in the past caused significant suffering, permanent disabilities and sometimes even death. Despite the unequivocal scientific proof that vaccines help prevent numerous diseases in children, adolescents and adults, vaccination rates remain lower than they should be.  It was estimated by the CDC that in In the United States, among children born during 1994–2013, vaccination will prevent an estimated 322 million illnesses, 21 million hospitalizations, and 732,000 deaths during their lifetimes. Very few of us remember the devastation inflicted on humanity before the advent of active vaccination programs. In the United States, the 1952 polio epidemic became the worst outbreak in the nation's history. Of the nearly 58,000 cases reported that year, 3,145 died and 21,269 were left with mild to disabling paralysis. I still have many patients in my practice that were disabled by this deadly virus which now has been completely eradicated in the United States by vaccination efforts. However, there are still cases occurring worldwide, and only an airplane ride away.

There are still frequent out breaks in this country of numerous other diseases such as measles, mumps, chickenpox, and whooping cough which could be prevented by higher vaccination rates. Just last year there was a measles epidemic at Disneyland, after which California enacted tougher  laws mandating children to be vaccinated prior to entering school. Colleges also have been hit hard by out breaks of mumps and meningitis in recent years.  College requirements vary on which vaccines are required. Some require proof of immunity through blood tests but some require no proof of immunity or documentation of vaccinations at all. One of the most common viruses, influenza, still claims the lives of thousands of people every year. About three-quarters of U.S. children who died of flu complications between 2010 and 2014 were unvaccinated before they fell ill. But if all children got their yearly flu shot, it was estimated that 65 percent of those deaths could have been averted. There are also many vaccinations recommended for adults depending on age and risk factors for these infectious diseases that are not utilized nearly enough such as pneumonia, influenza and shingles vaccines and whooping cough and tetanus boosters.

So why don’t some parents have their children vaccinated? For some it is just not wanting to inflict any pain on them, but the few minutes of crying they might endure just doesn’t compare to the consequences of getting these preventable illnesses. For some parents, unfortunately, it is a matter of access to healthcare and social economic factors.  So please encourage your legislators to continue programs that make access to healthcare and vaccination programs available and affordable for all of our children. There are parents that are very concerned and skeptical about the potential side effects of various vaccines. They love their children so much that they just can’t get past these unsupported theories. Unfortunately most of these concerns are based on bad data and bad science that have been proven by numerous good scientific studies to be unfounded.

So please, whether you are 2 months old or 100 years old make an appointment with your primary care provider to discuss any concerns you might have about your vaccination needs. Protect yourself and your children, now, against these dreadful but preventable diseases.

Dr. Thomas Richardson, M.D.