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Why Immunize?

As students head back to school, make sure your children have up-to-date immunizations.

“We don’t vaccinate just to protect our children,” says Dr. Grace F. Maguire, a pediatrician at UK HealthCare’s Kentucky Children’s Hospital and professor of pediatrics, University of Kentucky College of Medicine. “We also vaccinate to protect our grandchildren and their grandchildren. In the case of smallpox, we successfully eradicated the disease worldwide through immunization efforts. Our children don’t have to get smallpox shots any more because the disease no longer exists.”

Kentucky immunizations
In Kentucky, the mission to immunize every child has become a statewide initiative. The Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services Immunization Program provides vaccines at no cost to the healthcare providers for the Vaccines for Children program and enforces school and childcare immunization regulations. They provide a list of required and recommended vaccinations, as well as an immunization schedule for children attending public and private primary and secondary schools. Visit their Web site at and type in “Kentucky Immunization Program” for a downloadable PDF or the Web page.

World vaccination view
Prior to vaccine use, diseases such as diphtheria, polio, and tetanus were threats to entire populations, causing pandemic disease across the country; however, these diseases are no longer a threat due to extensive immunization therapy throughout the U.S. population.

Vaccine protection has resulted in some diseases, such as polio and diphtheria, disappearing in the United States, while others, such as mumps and certain types of meningitis, have become very rare.

If some of these diseases have been wiped out in the U.S., why do we still vaccinate for them? “While several diseases have been eradicated or greatly reduced in our country, they are still plaguing many areas of the world,” says Maguire. “If we cease immunizations, these diseases will re-establish themselves here.”

Boost some vaccines
Immunizing children has been a primary focus, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stress the importance of immunizing adolescents and adults as well. For the most part, vaccines administered to children will provide a lifetime of protection; however, some vaccines may fade over time. Also, newer vaccines weren’t available when adults were children and improvements have been made in them over time.

“Whooping cough (pertussis) is on the rise in the U.S. across all age groups, including adults,” says American Academy of Pediatrics President Dr. Renee R. Jenkins. “More than 20,000 cases were identified in the U.S. in 2005, but the vast majority goes unreported. Experts estimate there may actually be up to 1 million cases every year. That’s why we have to be diligent about vaccinating our children and adolescents against illnesses.” Adults (especially those with contact with infants) should get a booster shot against whooping cough, and this is accomplished by getting a special tetanus booster, including the pertussis vaccine.

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