This week is National Infant Immunization Week (NIIW), a time to talk about vaccines.
Do you remember mumps? How about chicken pox? For so many children, these are diseases they never had or will never get. But I remember them well – the incredible pain and swelling from mumps, the constant itching and scars from chicken pox, not to mention the many days of school that I missed. I knew kids who were hospitalized due to complications from both mumps and chickenpox.
Even my kids had chicken pox – one more severely than the other – as the vaccine was not yet available. How I wish they could have avoided that disease!
Rotavirus is another potentially very serious condition that most babies and children can avoid today. My daughter ended up in the hospital for two days due to complications from rotavirus – a very scary experience!
But perhaps the one that hits home the most for me is polio. The March of Dimes would not be here if it were not for this devastating disease. When President Franklin D. Roosevelt contracted this paralyzing disease, he called on our organization to raise money in order to fund research to develop a vaccine. The March of Dimes is named for the dimes that were “marched” to Washington from countless people to fund research into finding a vaccine in time to spare any more men, women, children and babies from getting this crippling disease.
We were successful. The polio vaccine was rolled out to the public in 1955 as a result of the pioneering work of March of Dimes’ funded researchers Drs. Salk and Sabin.
Due to the development of this vaccine, polio is practically a part of world history. It no longer exists in America, and is almost totally eradicated in other parts of the world. When you stop to think about it, that is really AMAZING. This little vaccine prevents lifelong paralysis and pain in millions of people.
What started with combating polio has led March of Dimes to continue working hard to ensure all babies get a fighting chance for a healthy start in life.
But vaccines are not just for babies
As important as it is for babies and children to receive their vaccines, it’s also critical that adults who come in contact with children stay up-to-date with immunizations. For example, pertussis (whooping cough) can be fatal for a baby. When parents and caretakers get the vaccine, they are ensuring that their baby will be protected until he is old enough to be immunized. In fact, it is so important to get this vaccine that all pregnant women are recommended to receive the Tdap vaccine during each pregnancy.
There’s no doubt about it -even adults need vaccines. And women need them before, during and after pregnancy.
It would be a very different world without the lifesaving vaccines that have spared us from so many diseases. NIIW is a time to highlight the importance of protecting babies and children from vaccine-preventable diseases and to celebrate the achievements of immunization programs in the U.S.
We’re a healthier nation and world because of them.
Please share your support for childhood immunizations by participating in this week’s blog-a-thon. Here are the details.