Health officials are concerned that some children may not be protected against vaccine-preventable diseases like measles, whooping cough, and other infectious pediatric diseases.
The percentage of children under age two who haven’t received any vaccinations has quadrupled in the last 17 years, according to reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, Montana’s childhood immunization rates are running behind the overall U.S. — 63.6 percent compared to 70.7 percent nationally in 2016.
“We have seen a trend of parents hesitant to vaccinate their children,” says Trixie Smith, Prevention Services Division Manager at the Cascade City-County Health Department. “If we have children who are unvaccinated, then disease rates rise overall, and this puts our kids and others at risk for deadly diseases.”
Here are five things to know about vaccinations:
- Vaccinations are Critical to Public Health
Vaccine-preventable diseases can be very serious. They may require hospitalization, or even be deadly — especially in infants and young children.
On-time vaccination throughout childhood is essential because it helps provide immunity before children are exposed to potentially life-threatening diseases. It’s one of the best ways that parents can protect infants, children, and teens from 14potentially harmful diseases. Furthermore, on-time vaccination helps build “herd immunity,” which is how an entire population — not just the vaccinated individual — is protected from a disease. Vaccination kills germs in the vaccinated person and, as a result, protects the “herd” by keeping that person from spreading the infection to others who cannot safely receive certain vaccines (like infants under six months of age or people with certain autoimmune diseases).
- Vaccinations Are Safe
Research has proven them to be so.
Some believe that vaccinations actually harm children, says Bowen Trystianson, public health nurse at Cascade City-County Health Department (CCHD).
“Many people have concerns about some of the components within vaccines. The measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine, for instance, received a lot of coverage. People were concerned that it could cause issues and that it possibly led to autism,” he says.
A study supporting that claim was discredited, and studies around the world have consistently found no link between the MMR vaccine and autism.
- Sticking to the CDC schedule is the best practice
CCHD suggests following the Centers for Disease Control’s recommended vaccine schedules for children and adults. Vaccines are tested to ensure that they are safe and effective for children to receive at the recommended ages.
“These recommendations are based on evidence of when these vaccines will help prevent the most diseases,” Trystianson says. “An extensive process of numerous tests and studies has helped determine the most effective schedule for vaccinating kids.”
The CDC sets the immunization schedules based on recommendations from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, made up of medical and public health experts who meet several times a year to review vaccines and data. The committee recommends routine vaccination against 14 potentially serious illnesses by the age of 24 months.
Trystianson also notes that some parents have expressed concern about the number of vaccines that need to be administered at one time.
“Sometimes it does look like it’s a lot of vaccines at once, but it isn’t arbitrary. The recommended schedule is timed to maximize effectiveness. Vaccines do best at preventing disease when individuals are vaccinated at the recommended time, and the schedule definitely takes the safety of the patient into account. The number of vaccines has been determined not to cause harm,” says Trystianson.
- There are plenty of opportunities to get immunized
The Cascade City-County Health Department is always looking for innovative, convenient ways to ensure that the public has access to affordable immunizations. This summer on August 7th, for instance, CCHD is teaming up with Great Falls Clinic, Great Falls Public Schools, Blue Cross Blue Shield, and Mountain View Physical Therapy to offer “Back to School” immunization and sports physical clinics.
Get your kids up to date on immunizations and ready to compete in school sports in one quick trip—this year there will be more providers and a shorter wait time! Physicals are only $15, and CCHD accepts insurance and all payment methods for immunizations. Parents and younger kids can get immunized, too, and no child will be turned away for an inability to pay.
- Your Answers are Just a Call Away
Those with questions can always ask the Cascade City-County Health Department’s immunization experts. Visit the office at 115 4th Street South in Great Falls between 8:00 am and 4:30 pm, or call 406-454-6950 to get information or express concerns.
“I understand vaccine hesitancy. People want the best for their child, they want to protect their child’s health, and there’s conflicting information out there,” he says. “One of our goals is to put people at ease and help them make fully informed decisions when it comes to vaccinations. We don’t want them to have any lingering concerns or worries about vaccinations.”
“We’re always a resource for the entire community of Cascade County.”
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