August is Immunization Awareness Month!
Smallpox was the first disease in which a successful vaccine was produced for its treatment. Created by British physician Edward Jenner in 1796, the disease had proved to be a very contagious and deadly disease, causing the deaths of 20-60% of infected adults and over 80% of infected children. When smallpox was finally eradicated in 1979, it had already killed an estimated 300-500 million people during the 20th century alone (http://www.historyofvaccines.org). This vaccine would revolutionize the medical world and begin to positively influence immunizations for other diseases. The first major documented polio outbreak in the U.S. caused 18 deaths and 132 cases of permanent paralysis were reported. When it was discovered that the infectious agent in Polio was a virus, it had already taken the lives of more than 2,000 people in New York City. Across the U.S. in 1916, Polio had killed 6,000 people and left thousands more paralyzed. It wasn’t until the 1950s when researchers could see the Poliovirus itself with the electron microscope. (http://www.historyofvaccines.org) Once successfully created, the Polio vaccine saved many lives and ended the paralyzation that was a common symptom on the virus. These vaccinations would lead to the development of other countless successful vaccines that would eventually eradicate lethal diseases, in turn preventing major epidemics. Every August is deemed “National Immunization Awareness Month” or “NIAM” and is recognized by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Resources. Two “NJ Top Docs” Pediatricians, Dr. Stuart Slavin of Touchpoint Pediatrics and Dr. Mondana Yazdi of Wyckoff Pediatrics were invited to speak on the topic.
This awareness month stresses the importance of being immunized against infectious and deadly diseases. Each year, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention collaborates with the National Public Health Information Coalition to use the National Immunization Awareness Month as a vehicle to highlight the need for improving national immunization coverage levels. They host activities in the month of August focusing on encouraging adults and children to protect their health by being immunized against infectious diseases (http://ww.cdc.gov/vaccines…). Dr. Stuart Slavin says, “Keeping children current on their vaccinations is probably the single most important thing that parents can do to prevent serious diseases in their children. Vaccines have a proven track record of safety and effectiveness, and are responsible for the decreased rate or elimination of many dangerous childhood illnesses, including whooping cough, meningitis, and bacterial bloodstream infections, among many others. Dr. Mondana Yazdi would agree. “Please recognize that by not vaccinating you are putting your child at unnecessary risk for life-threatening illness and disability, and even death”, says. Dr. Yazdi.
In the 90s, widespread fear that vaccines caused autism caused parents to be reluctant to vaccinate their children. Dr. Slavin says, “Over the course of my career, I have seen more and more parents struggling with the decision about whether to vaccinate their children. This is unfortunate, because years of research and countless studies have upheld the safety of the routine childhood vaccination schedule, and have specifically concluded that there is no link between vaccines and autism or other developmental problems. The truth is that the risk of not vaccinating a child greatly outweighs any minor side effects from vaccines. As pediatricians, we are in the unenviable position of seeing what can happen to children when they are not protected by vaccines. That is why most of us pediatricians have no problem with the decision to fully vaccinate our own children, and why we want to provide the same level of protection to all of our patients. In our practice, although we strongly recommend following the standard vaccine schedule, we will work with parents who want to vaccinate according to a slower schedule, as always keeping the best interest of the child’s health our top priority.”
The month of August is when children, preteens, teens, and college students are preparing to go back to school. It is the best time to remind parents to make sure that their loved ones have all the recommended vaccines by the time they return to school. It’s also very important that college students are up-to-date on their immunizations before they move into their dormitories. By the time August rolls around, it’s only a few months away from the dreaded flu season. Every age six months and older needs a seasonal flu shot every year. Other shots work best when they are given at certain ages, so it’s best to keep current on what to be vaccinated for by checking state and local health departments (www.healthfinder.gov/nho…). Dr. Yazdi states, “Because of vaccines, many of you have never seen a child with polio, tetanus, whooping cough, bacterial meningitis or even chickenpox, or known a friend or family member whose child died of one of these diseases.” She believes that vaccinating children and young adults may be the single most important health promoting intervention that they perform as health providers. Dr. Yazdi says that the recommended vaccines and their schedule given are the result of years and years of scientific study and data-gathering on millions of children by thousands of our brightest scientists and physicians. Parents are always in the right when they are cautious and concerned about how their children are being cared for, regardless of what they decide.
Dr. Yazdi of Wyckoff Pediatrics is conveniently located in Bergen County. For more information, please visit Dr. Yazdi’s online profile at:
Dr. Stuart Slavin of Touchpoint Pediatrics is conveniently located in Morris County. For more information, please visit Touchpoint Pediatric’s online profile at:
History of Vaccines
Centers for disease control
The Health Service Executive (HSE) National Immunization Office of Ireland
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