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The Importance of Child Immunizations

Monday, September 19, 2011
The Importance of Child Immunizations
Doneen Hollingsworth
Secretary of Health
PIERRE, S.D. – A recent series of articles by a Yankton chiropractor raised numerous questions about childhood vaccinations. As the state’s public health agency, we share his concern for the health and well-being of our children. That is why we encourage parents to get the facts about immunization and provide their children with this life-saving protection.  
Vaccines have been so successful in reducing once common childhood diseases that it’s easy to forget how serious these illnesses can be. When vaccines first became available, parents who had seen children die from measles or crippled by polio willingly lined up their children to be immunized.
Vaccines have repeatedly been studied and continue to be monitored to assure that they are effective in preventing disease and are as safe as possible. As with any medical treatment, vaccines do present some risk of side effects but the evidence shows these are typically minor and short term such as redness and soreness at the injection site or low-grade fever. More serious effects are possible but very rare and are tracked through the national Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System.
The benefits of vaccination greatly outweigh the slight risks and it is clear that many, many more injuries and deaths would occur without vaccinations. The fact is that our children are far more likely to be seriously injured by one of these diseases than by any vaccine.
Earlier this year several California infants died in a pertussis (whooping cough) outbreak, a sobering reminder that vaccine-preventable disease can result in illness and death. In today’s highly-mobile society, such diseases can quickly spread through unvaccinated populations, as the H1N1 flu virus certainly showed.
If you have questions about vaccines, the department encourages you to talk with your child’s medical doctor. You can also review the wealth of vaccine information available from reputable sources such as the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (http://www.aap.org/immunization). The South Dakota Department of Health also offers information on its website (http://doh.sd.gov/Immunize). As parents, there are few decisions you can make that are more important than those affecting your child’s health. As you make decisions about vaccines, rest assured that the doctors, nurses and public health professionals encouraging immunization have made the decision to protect their own children from measles, mumps, pertussis and other such illnesses with available vaccines. Their commitment to childhood vaccination is both personal and professional.
Improving the health of infants, children and adolescents is a key objective of the department’s Health 2020 initiative. Maintaining high childhood immunization rates is one of the best ways we can achieve that goal for our children.
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