Vaccine - a doctor giving  vaccination girl, health, preventionHere’s another reason to immunize your kids: so you don’t become ill with a vaccine-preventable disease. Many childhood diseases can be serious or even life threatening in adults. With decreasing childhood immunization rates, increasingly more adults are suffering from these diseases. Others who suffer are babies too young to be immunized.

No vaccine is perfect and not everyone immunized develops immunity. There are also some children who, for medical reasons or because they are too young, can’t be immunized. Sometimes the immunity conveyed by a vaccine lessens over time. A phenomenon called “herd immunity” can help protect those without immunity; if enough members of the “herd” have immunity against a contagious disease, then the disease can’t get a foothold in the herd.

In the past, with high childhood vaccination rates, herd immunity was strong and protected those with immunity. This protective factor is changing as childhood immunization rates are falling in some areas of the country. The incidence of whooping cough has been increasing since the 1980s. Mumps is making a comeback, as is chickenpox.

Another reason to prevent childhood diseases with vaccinations is the long-term sequelae. For example, in order to suffer from shingles later in life, one has to have had the chickenpox. Shingles is a reactivation of the chickenpox virus. If a person has never had chickenpox, she can’t get shingles. Anyone who has had shingles will tell you it can be extremely painful.

Another example is post-polio syndrome. While not contagious like other childhood diseases, it can affect people many years after they have had polio, even if the recovery from polio was good. Post-polio syndrome affects the same muscles that were initially weakened and begins with slowly progressive muscle weakness, fatigue and muscle atrophy.

It’s important that everyone-children and adults-are properly immunized to help prevent preventable diseases.

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From issue: 30/03-04