Did you know that this week is National Infant Immunization Week? As we are enduring the coronavirus pandemic we should think about all the diseases we no longer fear for our children due to vaccines. In the first half of the last century, before Jonas Salk developed the polio vaccine in 1955, there were polio epidemics. As the polio virus swept through communities (usually in the summer) movie theaters and swimming pools would be shut down and quarantines imposed. In 1952, at the peak, polio killed 3,145 people (mostly children) and left thousands of others paralyzed.
Measles is still circulating and is even more contagious that the coronavirus. More than 140,000 people died worldwide last year from measles, mostly children under the age of 5. Unfortunately measles has been making a comeback, causing outbreaks in Europe and the US, due to lack of vaccination.
Rotavirus also kills thousands of children every year worldwide from diarrhea and dehydration. Before the vaccine was introduced in the US in 2006, over 70,000 children would be hospitalized each year with rotavirus and 20-60 would die.
In addition to polio, measles, and rotavirus, infants are also vaccinated against the bacteria and viruses that cause meningitis, pneumonia, chicken pox, whooping cough, diphtheria, tetanus, and hepatitis. That’s a lot of disease being prevented!
We are still learning a lot about coronavirus, but children seem to be at a much lower risk for severe illness. I am confident that a vaccine will eventually be developed. In the meantime, don’t delay your child’s immunizations for the diseases we CAN prevent. Happy National Infant Immunization Week!