To all you fellow moms out there (and any dads as well), this column is for you.
We all love our kids, right? And we’d do anything we can to keep them safe. Well, one of the most important things you can do to protect your children is to make sure they’re vaccinated.
I know because as an RN who specializes in infection prevention, I’ve seen children and adults suffer needlessly from diseases that could have been easily prevented by proper immunization. Just recently we have seen outbreaks of measles and chickenpox, both of which could have been prevented by vaccination. Just this week, the N.J. Department of Health announced another new measles case in New Jersey – this one reported in Monmouth County, following a continuing outbreak in Ocean County, along with confirmed cases in Passaic. New York also has seen an outbreak of measles cases.
Measles is highly contagious. It’s spread through the air. Symptoms include rash, high fever, cough, runny nose and red, watery eyes. It can cause serious complications such as pneumonia and encephalitis, or swelling of the brain.
Many of the cases in the current outbreaks have been in individuals who were not up-to-date on the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine – commonly called MMR. That allowed the illness to spread widely from what is believed to be the initial exposure of an unvaccinated individual who recently traveled to Israel.
And that’s another key point: Vaccination is especially important for anyone who is traveling overseas. Vaccination rates are often lower in other countries, and the threat of exposure is greater. A serious and contagious disease is not the kind of souvenir you want to bring home to your loved ones.
We’re fortunate because many of us don’t recall the days when children by the hundreds were sickened by measles. Before the measles vaccine became available in 1963, the annual measles death toll in the United States was about 440 during the 1950s.
I fear that we are reaching a point now where our fading memories of past epidemics have made us complacent, or at least uniformed, about the importance of vaccination.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Family Physicians all agree on a schedule of immunizations. The recommended vaccines for infants include MMR, and it requires two shots to be effective. If you’re not sure whether you’ve been fully vaccinated, ask your healthcare provider – you may need a booster shot.
Mom and dad, you’re the protector for your child. Ask your family’s doctor or visit the CDC website at www.cdc.gov/vaccines to learn more. Get educated; and get them vaccinated.
Shannon Davila, RN, is director of the Institute for Quality and Patient Safety at the New Jersey Hospital Association.