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Get Healthy Carson City: Childhood vaccines provide protection and save lives

National Infant Immunization Week is a reminder that children need vaccines right from the start

Carson City Health and Human Services

We all need to focus on staying safe and as healthy as possible during this pandemic — if for no other reason, to avoid adding stress to our already overburdened healthcare system. And while we must avoid the emergency room if we can, vaccines are as important as ever. This is especially true for our children.

One of the best ways we can protect our children is through ensuring they’re vaccinated on time, every time. Every dose of every vaccine is essential to prevent 14 serious and potentially deadly diseases before the age of 2.

Today’s childhood vaccines protect against serious diseases, including polio, whooping cough (pertussis), measles, mumps and rubella. Listed below are just a few examples of these diseases and how their vaccines have changed the course of history.

  • The polio virus spreads from person to person and can infect their spinal cord, causing paralysis. Before the polio vaccine was invented by Dr. Jonas Salk in the 1950s, schools were often shut down during outbreaks, because polio is extremely contagious and life-threatening. According to Salk.edu, “In the two years before the vaccine was widely available (1955), the average number of polio cases in the U.S. was more than 45,000. By 1962, that number had dropped to 910.” Polio has now been eliminated from most of the world.
  • Mumps is best known for puffy cheeks and a swollen jaw. However, before there was a vaccine, it was one of the most common causes of deafness, meningitis and viral encephalitis (swelling of the brain) in the United States. Thanks to global efforts like the Measles and Rubella Initiative, measles deaths have dropped by 84 percent since 2000. However, measles made a comeback in 2018 and 2019 because many families stopped vaccinating their children against this contagious and dangerous disease. You have the power to protect your child against mumps, measles and rubella and with a safe and effective vaccine known as MMR.
  • The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) shares that: “In the 20th century, pertussis (also known as whooping cough) was one of the most common childhood diseases and a major cause of U.S. childhood mortality. Before the availability of pertussis vaccine in the 1940s, public health experts reported more than 200,000 cases of pertussis annually. Since widespread use of the vaccine began, incidence has decreased more than 75 percent compared with the pre-vaccine era.” Like COVID-19, the bacteria that cause pertussis are spread in the air through droplets caused by a sick person sneezing or coughing. Immunization against pertussis is available for children and pregnant women through the DTaP and Tdap vaccines.

While there isn’t currently a vaccine against COVID-19, the good news is that vaccines can protect our children from 14 other serious and potentially deadly diseases. But they only work if they’re administered on time, every time.

If you’re not sure if your child is current on their vaccines, you can access their immunization record for free at https://izrecord.nv.gov. Or you can call your pediatrician or local health clinic and ask. This is also a good time for them to tell you what additional safety measures they’re taking to ensure you and your family are protected when you visit.

If you don’t have insurance or if your insurance does not cover vaccines for your child, the Vaccines for Children (VFC) Program may be able to help. This program helps families of eligible children who might not otherwise have access to vaccines. To find out if your child qualifies, visit the VFC website (http://www.vfcnevada.org/), or ask your healthcare provider.

To celebrate the public health achievements of vaccines and the importance of immunizations throughout our lives, Immunize Nevada is joining with partners nationwide in recognizing April 25 – May 2 as National Infant Immunization Week (NIIW). Because every child should have a shot at a healthy life — in Nevada, the U.S. and worldwide.

If you have questions about vaccines and vaccine-preventable diseases, please visit http://www.immunizenevada.org or follow us on social media.