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Raising Awareness of the Importance of Immunizations: Update from our School Nurses

by Carilyn Rains, SPS Nurse Leader

The Sandwich Public Schools is committed to the health, safety and well being of all of our district school children and their families. Our district Health Services’ Department believes that it is critical to share accurate, up-to-date evidence-based information regarding all types of health information that could potentially impact our children here in Sandwich.  With that being said, we would like to share the following information relative to vaccine preventable diseases.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently urged Americans to get vaccinated for measles amid an outbreak that began at Disneyland in December – which public health officials suspect began when an infected person from outside the United States visited the park – saying that 2014 saw the highest number of cases in two decades (Reuters).  Measles was declared eliminated from the United States in 2000. The sometimes deadly virus, which is airborne, can spread swiftly among unvaccinated children; it can cause rash, fever, diarrhea, ear infections and pneumonia.  Measles can also cause swelling of the brain and death, and is most dangerous for children under 5 years of age, adults over 20 years of age, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems.  Similarly, over a seven month period in 2014, the number of cases of pertussis that have been reported to CDC represents a 30% increase compared with the same time period in 2013. Pertussis (“whooping cough”) outbreaks are now occurring all over the country. Newborns and infants are especially hard hit by this disease. While disease can occur in all ages, infants less than 12 months are at highest risk for severe disease and death (CDC, 2014).

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all children should get the vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella between the ages of 12 and 15 months old and again between 4 and 6 years old.  With regard to pertussis,  infants begin their pertussis immunization series (Diphtheria-Tetanus-Acellular Pertussis or “DTaP”) at two months, however maximum protection is not achieved until the primary series is completed. Adolescents and adults are recommended to be immunized with a booster dose – “Tdap” – for adolescents this is preferably given at age 11-12 years. The recent outbreaks of infectious disease have renewed the debate over the so-called anti-vaccination movement in which fears about potential side effects of vaccines – fueled by now-debunked theories suggesting a link to autism – have led a small minority of parents to refuse to allow their children to be inoculated. Ultimately, all parents need to be given good information about the true safety and reliability of inoculations.