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Guest editorial: Vaccines are a shared responsibility

Editor's note: The following is a guest editorial written by Marcia Schroeder, Registered Nurse, Horizon Public Health

Have you, or someone you know, ever had shingles? If so, you know the disease can be very painful and can last for months. But did you know that getting the chickenpox vaccine during childhood can prevent shingles later in life? It's true. August is National Immunization Awareness Month. It's a time to celebrate vaccines and everything they've done to make children — and adults — healthier.

Because of vaccines, more children grow to adulthood, more adults live without physical handicaps from childhood diseases and more grandparents are here to enjoy their grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Vaccines are among the most successful and cost-effective public health tools available for preventing disease and death. Vaccines are thoroughly tested before licensing and carefully monitored even after they are licensed to ensure that they are very safe. Side effects from vaccines are usually mild and temporary.

Vaccines have proven track records of protection, for example, acute hepatitis B rates have dropped more than 80 percent since the early 1990s, when routine vaccination for hepatitis B began. Chickenpox cases have declined 90 percent since vaccine became available in 1995. That's 90 percent less people who might also have to suffer through shingles. Influenza vaccines vary in how well they work, but recent studies show that they will protect about 60 percent of people who get them. These facts are not a coincidence; they are the direct result of the success of vaccines.

The good news is vaccine—preventable diseases are at or near record lows. The not so good news is even though most infants and toddlers receive all recommended vaccines by age 2, many children remain unimmunized or under-immunized, leaving the potential for disease outbreaks. An example is the recent measles outbreak in Minneapolis.

Immunization is a shared responsibility. Families, healthcare professionals, and public health officials must work together to help protect the entire community. Talk to your health care professional or call Horizon Public Health at 320-208-6672 to make sure everyone in your family is up to date on all recommended vaccines.

Back-to-school physicals are a perfect time to make sure your children are up-to-date on all the vaccines recommended for them. Remember to ask at every doctor visit — no matter your age — if you are up-to-date with your shots.

For more information on vaccinations and the diseases they can prevent see www.cdc.gov/vaccines.

Horizon Public Health serves Douglas, Grant, Pope, Stevens and Traverse counties.

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