The tragic death of a local 17 year old boy reminds us that certain infections can be deadly and that vaccinating our children is life-saving.
As pediatricians, we are spending more time convincing parents of the need to vaccinate their children. In part, this is due to the effectiveness of vaccines in eliminating many life-threatening diseases. No mother today has suffered with a child paralyzed from polio; no father has watched a child die from measles.
Unfortunately if enough parents decide not to vaccinate their children, many of the diseases of the past will become all too real a part of our children’s futures.
The following diseases which used to strike fear in the hearts of parents and pediatricians alike have all been virtually eliminated by vaccines:
Measles was virtually unseen in the United States for many years until a Disney World outbreak in 2014. This deadly disease is a major problem world wide, killing over 700,000 children per year.
Polio infected nearly 60,000 children causing more than 3,000 deaths in the United States at the height of the 1952 epidemic. SInce the polio vaccine was introduced to masses of eager school children, polio has been completely eliminated in North America.
Haemophilus Influenza B was the most common cause of meningitis in young children before the HIB vaccine came out in1983. Haemophilus also caused epiglottitis, a swelling in the throat often leading to respiratory arrest. The HIB vaccine has decreased invasive Haemophilus disease by over 95% and saved the lives of thousands of children.
Pneumoccocus is a very common cause of meningitis, pneumonia and sepsis (an infection of the blood and organs.) Since the introduction of the Prevnar vaccine in 2000, rates of serious pneumococcal disease have decreased 80%.
Rubella, a cause of severe birth defects, is almost unheard of since a 1970’s advertising campaign reminded woman to get under the “rubella umbrella” and get vaccinated.
Meningococcus causes meningitis in infants and adolescents, and was the cause of death of the 17 year old Massapequa boy. The Menactra vaccine is so effective in preventing disease that colleges are now requiring all students get vaccinated.
Pertussis, also know as whooping cough, has seen a resurgence due to a decrease in vaccination rates. The pertussis bacteria produces weeks of coughing spasms that can not be cured with antibiotic.
Mumps and Tetanus are also serious diseases that have harmed many fewer children since the introduction of appropriate vaccines.
It is impossible to know which of our children have been saved from the deadly diseases above, but statistics clearly show that hundreds of thousands of children in the US are healthier and happier because of vaccines. This is why your pediatricians feel strongly that the benefits of vaccines far outweigh any risks.
Menactra – a life-saving vaccine against meningococcal meningitis
The Menactra vaccine provides excellent protection against meningococcal meningitis and we urge all parents with children 11 years and up to make sure their children get the vaccine. If you are unsure if your child has received Menactra, please contact us.
Menactra has recently been approved for children age 2 and up, but is only recommended for children at high-risk of infection – such as children not having a spleen, or having a severe immune disorder.
Menactra is routinely given at age 11 years and age 16 years. NYS requires that sleep-away camps notify all children of the existence of the menactra vaccine. The doctors at PHA follow the CDC guidelines and do not recommend Menactra before age 11 years for normal, healthy children.