Pennsylvania is known for many things––our role in the American Revolution; our vast rural landscape; our chocolate; and our sports teams. U.S. News ranks Pennsylvania 16th out of the 50 states when it comes to economic opportunity and 26th in health care quality, which makes us proud.
Unfortunately, Pennsylvania recently made a ranking that isn’t positive.
According to a new study published this June, Pennsylvania is among the states across the country with the highest vaccination exemption rate. This information has raised concern among medical professionals and policy makers alike, because immunizations are integral to the health of children’s lives.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Vaccination is one of the best ways parents can protect infants, children and teens from 16 potentially harmful diseases. Vaccine-preventable diseases can be very serious, may require hospitalization, or even be deadly – especially in infants and young children.”
For children born between 1994 and 2016, vaccination will prevent an estimated 381 million illnesses, 24.5 million hospitalizations, and 855,000 deaths in their lifetimes, according to the CDC.
The CDC highlights the five most important reasons to immunize your child:
- Immunizations can save your child’s life. Thanks to advances in medical research, children can be protected from diseases better than ever before with immunizations. Many diseases that killed thousands of children in years past have been completely eliminated, and others are almost gone, because of effective vaccines.
- Immunization is safe and effective. All vaccines given to children have been carefully reviewed and tested by scientists, doctors, and health care professionals. While the injection of a vaccination may cause pain or tenderness to the area, it is minimal compared to the pain, discomfort, and trauma of the diseases these vaccines prevent.
- Immunization protects others you care about. When babies are too young to be completely vaccinated, or are not able to get vaccinated because of allergies, illness, weakened immune systems, or other reasons, it is important that parents and other children who are able to get vaccinated are fully immunized. This step will keep those who can’t be vaccinated safe. It protects your family, and prevents the spread of diseases to loved ones.
- Immunizations can save your family time and money. If a child gets a vaccine-preventable disease, it can keep them out of school or daycare. Prolonged illness can take a financial toll on the family as well, because of lost time at work, medical expenses, or the cost of long-term disability care. In contrast, getting vaccinated against diseases is a good investment and is usually covered by insurance. The Vaccines for Children program is a federally funded program that provides vaccines at no cost for children who might not otherwise be vaccinated due to economic pressures. To find out more about this program, visit their website, or ask your child’s health care provider.
- Immunization protects future generations. Vaccines have reduced and, in some cases, eliminated many diseases that killed or severely disabled people just a few generations before. For example, smallpox vaccination helped eradicate that disease worldwide. Your children don’t have to get smallpox shots today because the disease no longer exists. If we keep vaccinating now, parents in the future may be able to trust that diseases like polio and measles won’t infect, cripple, or kill children.
With the school year right around the corner, it is important that your child has the required vaccinations to stay healthy. For the Pennsylvania school vaccination requirements, go to the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s (DOH) website. Don’t forget that Pennsylvania colleges and universities also have requirements.