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Editorial: Lack of vaccinations puts community in harm’s way

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U.S. vaccination programs appear to have become a victim of their own success. Because many parents have never experienced the effects of childhood diseases such as mumps or measles — let alone polio — they don’t always appreciate the health risks the diseases pose and the continuing need for vaccinations.

By the time children are 2 years old, they are recommended to have 10 different vaccinations to protect them from diseases such as chicken pox, polio, mumps and flu. But some parents who can’t afford vaccinations for their infants or are concerned about possible side effects from the shots are choosing not to have them vaccinated.

In Johnson County in 2011, one study showed that nearly 30 percent of infants were not vaccinated for diseases, such as hepatitis A or the measles, according to data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A separate study by Johnson Memorial Hospital, based on data from the Children and Hoosiers Immunization Registry Program, showed an infant immunization rate in the county of 42 percent, seven points below the state average. The low immunization rate was identified as one of the top health issues in the county by Johnson Memorial Hospital’s community health needs assessment.

While most vaccinations prevent diseases that have been eradicated from the U.S., getting them for children — whose immune systems are weaker than adults’ — is important because some illness, such as polio, are just a plane ride away, Vaccinate Indiana executive director Lisa Robertson said.

In today’s mobile, global business environment, it’s highly likely that a person will regularly come in contact with someone who has traveled overseas. Some of those areas could be centers where a disease is more common, and an unvaccinated person could bring it back home.

Some parents are concerned about possible side effects from vaccines and decide not to have their children immunized. But not vaccinating infants is dangerous not just for the health of the child but for the community. If a child who hasn’t been immunized is exposed to a disease and then comes in contact with someone whose immune system is weak, such as an elderly person, the child could spread the disease to that person as well.

In order to protect the child and the wider community,

it is vital that parents vaccinate their children. Just

because the parents have never known someone with polio, for example, doesn’t mean they should leave their children unprotected.

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