Polio, measles and other once-dreaded diseases are again threatening large numbers of children in the United States, due in part to the viral spread of something that physicians cannot easily cure: …
Polio, measles and other once-dreaded diseases are again threatening large numbers of children in the United States, due in part to the viral spread of something that physicians cannot easily cure: misinformation.
Bad advice about vaccines circulates broadly on social media and continues to cause well-meaning parents to delay or outright reject important immunizations in their children’s early years. In turn, that can result in needless sickness and suffering—and put entire communities at risk of outbreaks.
During National Infant Immunization Week, April 24-30, the Wright Center for Community Health joins with other advocates across the nation in highlighting the importance of protecting children two years and younger from vaccine-preventable diseases. Those diseases include hepatitis B, rotavirus, rubella, whooping cough and other conditions that can cause permanent disability, or even death.
“Parents and caregivers of young children, including kids under two, should check with the child’s health care provider to make sure the child is up to date on all age-appropriate immunizations,” said pediatrician Dr. Manju Mary Thomas, medical director of the Wright Center’s Pediatrics and Community-Based Medical Home Services.
“And if a child has fallen behind on any immunization schedule, make an appointment with the doctor’s office to get back on track,” added Thomas, who sees pediatric patients at the Wright Center for Community Health Mid Valley Practice. “On-time vaccination is of vital importance to provide the best defense against potentially life-threatening diseases.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other promoters of the observance tout the collective impact that routine childhood vaccinations have made over the past century, calling it a public health success story.
They frequently point to, for example, the introduction of the safe and effective polio vaccine in the United States in the mid-1950s as a major milestone. Before the vaccine’s availability, outbreaks each year led to more than 15,000 cases of paralysis. By 1979, polio infections caused by wild poliovirus had been eliminated in the U.S., only emerging when brought into the nation by travelers.
Other diseases also have been significantly controlled. In fact, the CDC estimates that routine childhood immunizations among individuals born between 1994 and 2018 will prevent over the course of their lifetimes an estimated 419 million illnesses. That translates into a reduction of eight million hospitalizations and 936,000 early deaths, according to the CDC.
The Wright Center for Community Health provides access to pediatric vaccines at its multiple primary and preventive care practices in Lackawanna, Luzerne and Wayne counties in PA. It also routinely dispatches a mobile medical unit, called Driving Better Health, to schools and other community hubs in northeast Pennsylvania, offering age-appropriate immunizations and other services. The vehicle makes it easier for certain populations to get health care near where they live, work and play. To find dates and locations of upcoming routine vaccination clinics, visit the Wright Center’s online events calendar at TheWrightCenter.org/events.
A parent or caregiver with questions about pediatric vaccines should talk with a trusted health care provider.
In addition to Dr. Thomas, physicians retained by the Wright Center who are board-certified in pediatrics include: Drs. Prachi Agarwal, Kabir Keshinro, Alberto Marante, Vijay Prasad and Linda Thomas-Hemak, the last of whom is president and CEO of The Wright Centers for Community Health and Graduate Medical Education.
They, and the enterprise’s other health care professionals, are available to listen to a parent’s concerns and have fact-based and respectful conversations.
Immunizing large swaths of the population is critical to building herd immunity and protecting the most vulnerable members of a community. Those at-risk residents include individuals “who are too young to be fully immunized or others who cannot receive recommended immunizations due to compromised immune systems,” according to the Pennsylvania Immunization Coalition.
The coalition’s local chapter, the Northeast Immunization Coalition based in Wilkes-Barre, PA, helps to amplify that important message and strive to correct misinformation, administer shots and prevent steep declines in immunization rates that have led to recent trouble in some parts of the nation.
A measles contagion in central Ohio late last year sickened more than 80 children, reportedly hospitalizing at least 32. Also, in 2022, the New York Department of Health issued a state of emergency after an unvaccinated young adult was paralyzed by polio, and wastewater testing later confirmed the spread of the virus in New York City and nearby counties.
Health officials suspect that a backlash to restrictions implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic, including mandated coronavirus immunizations in certain schools, might be fanning the current anti-vaccine sentiment. CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky has called vaccine misinformation “among the biggest threats” to public health.
Parents can do their part to protect their kids—and their communities—from easily preventable illnesses. Make an appointment to talk with a respected pediatrician or other health care professional about routine childhood vaccines.
For information about the Wright Center for Community Health’s pediatrics and other primary care services, call 570/230-0019 or visit www.TheWrightCenter.org.
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