County Health: Vaccines prevent the spread of diseases - Tucson Local Media: Desert Times

County Health: Vaccines prevent the spread of diseases

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Posted: Wednesday, June 4, 2014 10:36 am

Just this past year, I had to share a message that I hope I won’t have to again: There was a whooping cough outbreak in our community that sent a little one to the intensive care unit and kept many other children home from school for an extended period of time.  

This could have been avoided, or at least greatly reduced, had these children been immunized against diseases that spread all too easily from person to person.  

The best protection is vaccination.  In fact, vaccines are the single most effective way to prevent the spread of disease.

I know there are questions about the safety of vaccines, but as a physician, I can assure you that vaccinations go through years of rigorous testing and are under constant scrutiny to determine their safety and effectiveness.  As with any medication, it is important to have a discussion with your pediatrician or primary care practitioner about any questions you have.

Some diseases that once struck fear in the hearts of parents are no longer a threat thanks to vaccine.

You don’t have to worry any longer that a child’s fever or headache is potentially linked to polio. The once devastating disease of smallpox has been effectively conquered through persistent immunizations over generations – to such a degree that children are no longer even required to get this vaccine.

Over the past few years, there is evidence that some of these diseases are returning, leaving the public health community grappling with this resurgence, and parents coping with the effects of these diseases.

As your public health doctor, I worry for all of our children.  As a parent, I too have faced this decision and have chosen to vaccinate my children because I have seen firsthand the ravages of these diseases.  For example, children infected with whooping cough, which can be fatal, experience such fits of coughing they are left gasping for air. It is my hope that parents in our community will be spared the distress that accompanies this disease.

We have talked about the importance of protecting your children, but you as a parent can also help keep your child safe by maintaining your own vaccinations.

Do you remember the date of your last tetanus shot or know that you should get a booster for it every ten years in order to be protected?  Are you pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant? There are vaccines you need to protect you and your baby.  

It might be time to talk to your doctor, especially since it’s that time of year when our children are out of school and we are planning our family trips.  As you plan your trip, consider immunizations as one of the things on your checklist to assure everyone has a safe and healthy trip.  The health department offers travel immunizations at our South Clinic Office or talk to your health care practitioner.  

Thank you for your help to keep our community safe.

(Editor’s Note: Dr. Francisco Garcia is the chief medical officer for Pima County.)

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