Immunizations COUNT, Keeping our KIDS Healthy
March 4, 2015
What Have Vaccines Done For Us?
“For most of us, measles and whooping cough are diseases of the past. You get a few shots as a kid and then hardly think about them again. But that’s not the case in all parts of the world — not even parts of the U.S.” – Michaeleen Doucleff, NPR
There are several diseases that parents and families today are fortunate enough to not have to worry about – polio, diphtheria, whooping cough, , mumps. For those who are old enough to remember those diseases, fear is the common emotion. Today, that fear seems to have shifted. With several serious illnesses of the past being virtually unknown to parents, the fear is focused on the vaccines that prevent these diseases.
Recent events such as the measles outbreak in 2014 remind us that although many diseases are thought to be eliminated, they can recur at any time if our population does not continue utilizing vaccinations. The increase in life expectancy during the 20th century is largely due to improvements in child survival; this increase is associated with reductions in infectious disease mortality, due largely to immunization. However, infectious diseases remain a major cause of illness, disability, and death. Immunization recommendations in the United States currently target 17 vaccine-preventable diseases across the lifespan.
An International Issue
The map below illustrates recurring preventable diseases worldwide. When vaccinations are not properly utilized or are not accessible, diseases of the past re-emerge. Click here to visualize changing disease patterns over time.
The Art of Saving a Life
In order to bring to light the history behind and importance of vaccinations, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation sponsored over 30 artists of all mediums around the world to express their artistic vision of how vaccines help spread positive change around the world. The Art of Saving a Life project not only led to the production of truly moving art, but also to an international conversation about the power and positivity of vaccinations.
For those who enjoy and value art, take a look at the powerful artwork this project has inspired.
The Effect of Vaccines on Humanity
Vaccines are among the most cost-effective clinical preventive services and are a core component of any preventive services package. Childhood immunization programs provide a very high return on investment. For example, for each birth cohort vaccinated with the routine immunization schedule (this includes DTap, Td, Hib, Polio, MMR, Hep B, and varicella vaccines), society:
Prevents 14 million cases of disease.
Reduces direct health care costs by $9.9 billion.
Saves $33.4 billion in indirect costs.
Despite progress, approximately 42,000 adults and 300 children in the United States die each year from vaccine-preventable diseases. Communities with pockets of unvaccinated and undervaccinated populations are at increased risk for outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases.
The most recent measles outbreak helps paint a picture of how preventable diseases can spiral out of control when even a few people aren’t vaccinated. The outbreak occurred in mid-December 2014 when at least 39 people at Disneyland contracted the virus, which was part of an ongoing outbreak that has been linked to more than 102 cases in 14 states. This brings to light varying national perspectives on vaccines and vaccination.
“Herd” or Community Immunity is a term used to describe what happens when the majority of a population is vaccinated. Children in the same community belong to a shared pool of infection risk. If enough children lack protective immunity, the children who cannot get vaccinated are at greatest risk. There are several populations of children that cannot get vaccinated either because they are too young, have compromised immune systems or are allergic to the vaccine. As such, it is imperative that as many children that are able get vaccinated to help protect themselves and those who cannot receive vaccinations.
Prior to developing vaccines, disease spread rapidly and complications from those diseases were more severe. The amount of infectious germs in a vaccine is only a fraction of what children’s immune systems fight every day, and as the number of un-vaccinated children increases, the vulnerability of the entire population also increases.
For those interested in reading about the safety of immunizations, check out this great resource from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Where Does Missouri Stand?
While the Healthy People 2020 Target for immunization coverage is 90%, according to the 2013 National Immunization Survey, only 67% of Missouri children age 19-35 months received the proper series of all recommended immunizations.
How is Missouri Working to Improve Vaccination Tracking?
All states have immunization registries that allow tracking of immunizations; whether they are administered by a health care provider, a pharmacist, a local public health agency or a hospital. In Missouri this registry is called ShowMeVax. It is a confidential, centralized web registry available only to those allowed by law – public health agencies, clinics, schools, child care providers and health plans.
As of December, 2014 ShowMeVax has more than 36 million immunization records for more than 4 million adult and child clients and more than 830 health care centers, 308 schools and 198 child care facilities use the registry.
What does the registry offer?
- A reliable way to get immunization records for school, camp, child care enrollment
- Reduces duplication and over-immunizations
- Reduces missed opportunities to vaccinate
- Allows for the recording of medical alerts and adverse reactions
How can a registry help providers?
- They can look up immunization records
- There is no cost and it is easy to use
- If they have an electronic medical record they can submit data electronically into the registry
- Training and support are available for free
How can ShowMeVax be of value to you?
If your child(ren)’s immunization records have been sent to the registry by your doctor, clinic, pharmacist or hospital, you can call and request an official state copy of the record. So, when you are asked by your child’s school, summer camp, or child care facility for immunizations records, you can provide this easily and quickly. Just complete this request form and the records can be faxed, email (encrypted for confidentiality) or mailed to you.
Ask your provider if they are submitting your children’s immunizations into the registry, and if they are not, tell them about the benefits to them and to you.
What’s the lesson from the past?
We have made great strides in the United States in the last century to eliminate some of the most devastating and contagious diseases. Let’s not return to the past when these childhood diseases were common. By continuing to get vaccinations for yourself and your family you are protecting everyone!