GUEST COLUMN: The importance of continued immunizations during the COVID-19 pandemic  

Hensley

Immunizations play an important role in not only protecting people from preventable diseases, but also help to maintain community health. Historically, vaccines help to keep serious diseases from spreading, and have also helped to eradicate these diseases altogether.

Because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, some people may be avoiding visits to their physicians for routine vaccinations and other care for fear of infecting others or contracting the virus. This decision can present serious ramifications not only the patient, but also for overall public health. A drop in the immunization rate can lead to a spike in a preventable disease. Just last year, for instance, more than 1,200 measles cases were reported across the U.S., the majority of them among unvaccinated individuals, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Children under age 5 are particularly at risk of catching diseases because their immune systems are not yet strong enough to fight off certain illnesses. Additionally, some vaccines require a second dose of the medicine – known as a booster shot – to ensure that immunity does not weaken over time. That is why it is important to stick to your child’s vaccination schedule, even during this time of uncertainty, because delays could lead to serious health risks.

Those health risks due to a drop in vaccination rates spread across the community, as history shows us. For instance, when Japan’s immunization rate for whooping cough dropped from 80% in 1974 to 10% by 1979, cases increased by more than 3200%, according to the CDC. When vaccines are widely used, however, diseases can reach points of near eradication. In 1921, the United States saw more than 15,000 deaths from diphtheria, but since a vaccine was introduced in the 1930s, the CDC has only seen two cases of the illness between 2004 and 2014.

Being vaccinated as a child does not ensure immunity as an adult. Thousands of Americans get sick each year from diseases that could have been prevented by vaccines, according to the CDC. Adults should also keep track of vaccinations and visit physicians regularly. Adults must also take into consideration their age, job, lifestyle and any existing health conditions; these factors play a major role in dictating necessary vaccinations.

If your child has missed some of these routine vaccinations because of the pandemic, please connect with your health care provider to catch them up. We are taking extra steps to protect our patients, staff and community from the novel coronavirus. This includes limiting the number of people in our offices to allow proper social distancing, requiring everyone in our offices to wear a mask and enhanced sanitization.

To learn more about age-appropriate vaccinations or to schedule an appointment with a physician, visit www.chisaintjosephhealth.org/provider-directory or call 859.313.2255 to make an appointment.

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