At one time, a diagnosis of polio struck fear into the heart of a parent.
Now, it’s practically eradicated. In the late 1940s to early 1950s, polio crippled about 35,000 people annually in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. By 1979, the country was polio free.
The eradication of polio demonstrates the effectiveness of vaccines. This week is National Infant Immunizations Week, dedicated to raising awareness about the importance of getting babies the vaccines necessary to be healthy.
About 170,000 babies are born annually in Illinois who need to be immunized against 14 diseases before age 2, according to the McHenry County Department of Health.
One only needs to look at the increase in the vaccine-preventable disease of pertussis, or whooping cough, to see how important it is to get immunized.
In 2012, there were 299 pertussis cases in McHenry County, following the 169 cases from a 2011 outbreak. More than 2,000 cases of whooping cough were reported in 2012 to the Illinois Department of Public Health, the highest number since the 1950s.
Vaccines are a cost-effective public health tool that prevent disease and death, according to the health department.
Vaccines have been found to be safe and effective; a 1998 publication in The Lancet that proposed a theory that autism spectrum disorders could be caused by the combined measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, has been discredited and its results never replicated. The journal has retracted the story, and the man who wrote that study can no longer practice as a doctor.
The McHenry County Department of Health is using this week to remind parents to follow the recommended vaccination schedule to protect their infants and children by providing immunity early in life. You can find that schedule at www.cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules/easy-to-read/child.html, or call the health department at 815-334-4500 or visit www.mcdh.info for more information.
You don’t need a special week to get your child immunized. Use the week as a reminder to see whether your child is due for his or her shots, and if needed, get those scheduled now.