August is National Immunization Awareness Month, a reminder of the key role that childhood immunizations play in lifelong health. Megan Neuman, a pediatrician at Ministry’s Children’s Center offers her insights on the question “Why immunize?”
Why is it important to immunize children?
The basic premise of immunizing is that it sets up a person’s immune system to be able to fight disease. Immunizations are one of the most effective ways to prevent disease and maintain health. Simply put, there are certain illnesses out there that are really serious, but that are preventable: pertussis (whooping cough), polio and meningitis for example. Some of these diseases don’t have any cure, so prevention is key. Immunizing against these illnesses is an extremely low-risk procedure that yields really effective results.
Public Health used to perform immunizations for all kids. Do children need to see a provider at a clinic to receive immunizations?
Local families who take part in BadgerCare or are uninsured are still eligible to receive immunizations at Public Health. Families with private insurance need to see their providers, and here at Ministry we provide immunizations at any visit. Of course, August is a good time to be reminded to keep shots up to date, as many students will require proof of immunization at the beginning of the school year.
Young children need a series of immunizations to prevent disease. What about older kids?
Middle and high school kids are required to have the Tdap vaccine that prevents diseases including pertussis (whooping cough) and tetanus. Door County has actually seen some outbreaks of pertussis in the last few years, so it’s just as important as ever to be immunized. But there are also some highly effective vaccines that we recommend at this age, including HPV and meningococcal vaccine.
Public Health will be providing some school-based immunization clinics at some middle/high schools, but we urge parents to check with their providers and make sure their children’s immunizations are up to date.
Some parents have reservations about immunization. What should they do?
The best thing parents can do is to have a conversation with their child’s provider. There is so much information out there, and not all of it is reliable. It’s a big deal to make health care decisions for a child. Most concerns that parents have are not borne out in the research, and I reassure parents on a daily basis that vaccines are enormously safe. For example, some people are concerned about the ingredient thimerosal, which has actually been completely phased out of pediatric vaccines in the last 10 years. There’s a stringent testing and approval process and extremely high standards for vaccines, and any risk is far outweighed by the benefits. The bottom line is, we don’t want to leave any child susceptible to a disease that’s preventable.
To make an appointment with a pediatrician at Ministry North Shore Medical Clinic’s Children’s Center, call 920.746.3666.