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Vaccines Save Lives

Vaccines save lives. It is a statement of fact. In this age of information and technological advance, it's easy to forget that we previously existed in an age that was plagued by infections that caused significant illness and death. Vaccines have reduced or eliminated many infectious diseases that once routinely killed or harmed many infants, children, and adults. Let's look at a few examples of infections for which we vaccinate. Consider it a reminder of what used to be, or what could occur if our immunization rates continue to fall.

Before polio vaccine was available, 13,000 to 20,000 cases of paralytic polio were reported each year in the United States. These annual epidemics of polio often left thousands of victims--mostly children--in braces, crutches, wheelchairs, and iron lungs. The effects were life-long.

Before measles immunization was available, nearly everyone in the U.S. got measles. An average of 450 measles-associated deaths were reported each year between 1953 and 1963. Currently in the U.S., up to 20 percent of persons with measles are hospitalized. Pneumonia is present in about six percent of cases and accounts for most of the measles deaths. Some persons with measles develop encephalitis (swelling of the lining of the brain), resulting in brain damage.

About 12.5 million Americans have been infected with hepatitis B virus at some point in their lifetime. One and one quarter million Americans are estimated to have chronic (long-lasting) infection, of whom 20 percent to 30 percent acquired their infection in childhood. Approximately 25 percent of children who become infected with life-long hepatitis B virus would be expected to die of related liver disease as adults.

These are just a few examples, but the message is clear. Vaccines have made an enormous impact on our collective health and well-being. Routine immunizations have been instrumental in the safe prevention of disease, suffering and death. Delaying or declining these vaccines puts children and the community at risk. We find evidence of this in recent outbreaks of pertussis, measles, and polio, which are all vaccine preventable.

"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." To immunize is to provide the ultimate in prevention and protection.

Written by Dr. Bakari Morgan
On Behalf of PAMPA

© 2011 Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.
PAMPA is a pediatric medical practice in north Atlanta, Georgia consisting of twelve pediatricians, five nurses,
and four locations in Roswell, Woodstock, Atlanta, and Marietta. area.
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