Immunization save millions of children worldwide

There are many opposing views on immunizations in our state. From complete opposition to immunizations viewed as a major risk and interventionism as witnessed recently by me while working in a rural emergency room east of the Cascades. When offering a tetanus vaccine to a child with a cut from a metal surface, it became a long discourse over the components of the vaccine with a very concerned and worried father reluctant to have his son vaccinated in the ER. Some less stringent views include modified immunization schedules and selectively postponed immunizations from well-informed parents weighing the pros and cons of certain vaccines.

Despite all of the dilemmas on immunizations (and as the dust settles on the recent measles scare, and looking back at whooping cough scares in recent years in our state), I would like to focus our attention on a more global perspective. After all, we are living in connected world and not in an isolated bubble.

This year’s campaign focuses on closing the immunization gap and reaching equity in immunization levels as outlined in the World Health Organization’s Global Vaccine Action Plan. This plan is a framework to prevent millions of deaths by 2020 through universal access to vaccines for people in all communities.

Some numbers:

• 65 countries must reach 90 percent national vaccination coverage for diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis with DTP3 by 2015;

• 16 percent of children are not being immunized against measles;

• 24 countries must eliminate maternal and neonatal tetanus by the end of 2015.

The World Health Organization, including more than 180 member states, territories, and areas, promoted immunizations during National Infant Immunization Week, which was April 18-25.

Milestones Reached

Several important milestones already have been reached in controlling vaccine-preventable diseases among infants worldwide. Vaccines have drastically reduced infant death and disability caused by preventable diseases in the United States. In addition, through immunization, we can now protect infants and children from 14 vaccine-preventable diseases before age two.

In the 1950s, nearly every child developed measles, and, unfortunately, some even died from this serious disease. Today, many practicing physicians have never seen a case of measles.

Routine childhood immunization in one birth cohort prevents about 20 million cases of disease and about 42,000 deaths. It also saves about $13.5 billion in direct costs.

The National Immunization Survey has consistently shown that childhood immunization rates for vaccines routinely recommended for children remain at or near record levels.

It’s easy to think of these as diseases of the past. But the truth is they still exist. Children in the United States can — and do — still get some of these diseases. One example of the seriousness of vaccine-preventable diseases is an increase in measles cases or outbreaks that were reported in 2014. Data from 2014 show a higher than normal number of measles cases nationally and in individual states. By mid-July, 566 measles cases, making up 18 outbreaks, had been reported.

Last year’s measles scare was preventable. Talk to your family doctor and get evidence-based information on vaccines. More information is also available from the World Health Organization, http://www.who.int/en/, and the Centers for Disease Control, http://www.cdc.gov/.