Some may say the diseases that vaccines can protect children against are not that bad if they get the illness, and are willing to accept the potential risk of mild symptoms. It's important to educate to patients and their parents that with all infectious diseases, the severity of symptoms and complications can range, and falling on the wrong side of that range can be very serious. When we take away the protections against preventable disease, children suffer. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
"While in Haiti days after the earthquake a baby arrived from the overrun general hospital with 'seizures, r/o sepsis' written in marker on his chest. The baby would have occasional jerking movements but then would have absolutely normal vitals at rest when not stimulated. An attending physician from my hospital who is a well-published Emergency Physician said "I have written about this for 40 years but have never seen it. This is neonatal tetanus". We went on to care for 2 more babies and one teenager who sadly died from overwhelming rhabdomyolysis and renal failure. I was truly convinced of the power of vaccinations, both infant and adult, in that moment. If mom had been vaccinated, the baby would have been protected up until the time for his own immunizations to start. The teenager died because he never had the opportunity to be vaccinated as a child. I hope no one ever needs to treat another case of tetanus ever again." - Shannon M, Boston, MA
In 2014-2015, California experienced a measles outbreak, a disease that was previously considered eliminated in the US in 2000. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that of the 125 measles cases, 110 were California patients. Of these 110 patients, 45% were unvaccinated, 11% had an incomplete measles vaccine dose series, and 43% had unknown or undocumented vaccination status. Twelve of the unvaccinated were babies too young to be vaccinated. The disease wasn't just contracted by unvaccinated children. The 28 intentionally unvaccinated patients included 18 children and 10 adults. Just a rash? Of the 84 patients with known hospitalization status, 20% were hospitalized.
Earlier in 2014, Ohio experienced a measles outbreak of 383 cases in an underimmunized Amish community. Of the 383 patients affected, 89% were not vaccinated. As the authors concluded in this New England Journal of Medicine article, this epidemic was able to be mostly contained: "As a result of targeted containment efforts, and high baseline coverage in the general community, there was limited spread beyond the Amish community." Thank goodness for the high baseline coverage in the general community (aka HERD IMMUNITY!).
This story broke during National Infant Immunization Week 2017 and, at the time of this post, shows an outbreak of 21 cases in a Somali community of Minnesota. "The Somali community has been the target of misinformation regarding vaccines and a supposed link to autism." Misinformation has consequences.
As advocates for children, the Pediatric Pharmacy community supports immunization against preventable disease through education and dissemination of information from reliable sources.