Facts About Immunizations

Around the world, too many children are growing up vulnerable to deadly and preventable diseases. In the U.S., misinformation or lack of information are the main reasons so many children are unprotected. In developing countries, children’s vulnerability to preventable diseases is due to a variety of factors such as underutilization of existing services, unavailability of vaccines, and cost.

These deficiencies have led to such a dramatic drop in immunization/vaccination rates that many experts believe preventable childhood illnesses such as measles, whooping cough (pertussis), diphtheria, tetanus, polio, chickenpox (varicella), and tuberculosis will soon again become a real threat. In fact, more than 70,000 Americans of all ages (and some two million children in other countries continue to die each year from preventable diseases, and many more suffer needlessly. It is estimated that immunizations have prevented more than three million childhood deaths annually from measles, neonatal tetanus, and pertussis, along with more than 400,000 cases of polio.

For this decade, the global disease control goals set by the World Health Organization (WHO) are to reduce measles morbidity by 90 percent and measles mortality by 95 percent; to eradicate poliomyelitis worldwide, and to eliminate neonatal tetanus. This article seeks to inform teachers and educational administrators about the importance of immunizations in preventing potentially deadly diseases in children and adults. We will first discuss how vaccines work to protect the body from disease, and the immune system’s response once the body is exposed to infectious agents. We will also discuss vaccine recommendations in the U.S. and internationally, describe the risks and benefits of immunizing, along with some of the consequences of contracting various vaccine-preventable diseases, suggest school immunization policies, and advise how to respond when parents object to immunizing their children. It is not our intent to be judgmental, only to present the facts.

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