Keeping Children and Adolescents Healthy: The Importance of Vaccines
Jul 12, 2021
Polio. Diphtheria. Mumps. You've probably heard of many, if not all, of these diseases. But thankfully, cases are rare today thanks to vaccines. The COVID-19 pandemic has reminded us how deadly and disruptive diseases like these can be. That’s why it’s more important than ever to stay up to date with vaccines.
Vaccines Aren’t 100% Effective, so Why Should I Vaccinate My Child or Teen?
Vaccines protect not just your child or teen, but those around them, including their siblings, classmates, teammates and family. Vaccines are based on the principle of herd immunity, which means that a certain percentage of the population has to either have had the illness or have been vaccinated against it in order for outbreaks (or a rise in the number of disease cases) not to occur. Herd immunity for most vaccines is achieved when an 80 to 90% vaccine rate is reached.
Additionally, even if a particular vaccine is not 100% effective for your child or teen, by vaccinating other members of your household, and by the community at-large being vaccinated, their immunity protects your child or teen because they can no longer pass a disease on to them.
If a Disease Was Widespread 50 Years Ago, but We Reached Herd Immunity, Why Is It So Important to Continue Vaccinating Against It?
Herd immunity must be maintained over time in order for outbreaks to no longer occur. For example, in 1958, the United States had 763,094 cases of measles, the highest number in history. A vaccine for measles was introduced in 1963. Cases decreased after that and measles was determined to be eliminated in the United States in 2000, with just 86 cases that year.
Measles cases have increased in recent years, however, due to reduced vaccination rates. There were 1,249 cases in 2019 – the highest number in 25 years. The United States nearly lost its measles elimination status due to these outbreaks. And reports forecast an increased number of polio cases in the coming years as well, also due to declining vaccination rates.
We know you may have concerns about the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and whether it’s safe to take your child or teen to the doctor. At Nationwide Children’s Hospital, the safety of our patients, families and staff is our No. 1 priority. So don’t delay – schedule your child’s well visit today to help stop the spread of preventable diseases and keep your child or teen and loved ones safe.
Alex R. Kemper, MD, MPH, MS, is the division chief of Primary Care Pediatrics at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and professor of pediatrics at The Ohio State University College of Medicine. His research focuses of a wide range of preventive services.
Dane Snyder, MD
Primary Care Pediatrics
Dane A. Snyder, MD, is the section chief in the Division of Primary Care Pediatrics at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and an associate professor of pediatrics at The Ohio State University College of Medicine. In addition to his administrative duties, he provides direct patient care at the Nationwide Children's Hospital Hilltop Primary Care Center.
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