If you are a parent of a school-age child, I probably don't need to remind you that school will begin again in a month. Shopping for school supplies and clothes might be at the top of your to-do list, but please make room for one other essential task: making sure your child's vaccinations are up to date.
Schools require current immunization certificates for children entering kindergarten and the sixth grade. It is always better to prevent a disease than to treat it, and vaccines can protect the people who receive them and those they contact.
In recent years, a theory has surfaced that childhood vaccines are responsible for the growing number of U.S. children diagnosed with autism disorders. There has been no definite cause discovered for this surge in autism cases, but there is a large and growing body of scientific evidence that shows no connection between vaccines and autism.
Parents can be confident that medical and public health organizations — including the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Family Practice, American Medical Association, World Health Organization, National Institutes of Health, U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — strongly support the safety and benefits of immunizations.
Over the years, vaccines have been responsible for controlling many infectious diseases that once were common in the United States, including polio, measles, diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough), rubella (German measles), mumps and tetanus. We can't stop vaccinating our children against these diseases because they have not been eradicated worldwide.
A person from a country that doesn't vaccinate for a given disease could come here and infect many people, or your unvaccinated child could pick up something on a trip abroad. Immunizing your children can provide peace of mind. Do you want to worry that your child might have measles every time he gets a rash and has a fever, or that she might have pertussis every time she develops a cough?
Parents who truly want to do what's best for their children will make certain that their own immunizations are kept up to date. Vaccines for pneumonia, shingles, tetanus, whooping cough and the flu not only protect adults who receive them. The vaccines can keep people from possibly passing the disease to others who have weakened immune systems.
Dr. W. Jeffrey Foxx is a family medicine physician with Family Practice Associates of Lexington.