By Hansa Bhargava
WebMD Medical Editor
I will never forget the children I treated who became seriously ill because they were not vaccinated: A 5-month-old boy with a very high fever whose spinal tap revealed that he had the life-threatening brain infection meningitis; the child with chicken pox who ended up very sick with pneumonia.
As a medical student and intern, I also saw many cases of epiglottis, a disease that could stop a toddler/infant from breathing. With the Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) vaccine, we now rarely see this potentially fatal illness.
As parents, our greatest instinct is to protect our children every day. We hold them as infants and walk them to school. We make sure that they do not fall from playground equipment and catch them if they do. We feed them and nourish them. And we vaccinate to protect our children from diseases that can kill.
The number of deaths and disease prevented by simple vaccines is astounding and has changed the way we live. Yet in the past few years we have seen several outbreaks of measles and other diseases easily prevented by vaccines, mostly within communities and schools where immunizations were not given. This allows serious illnesses to spread freely and take hold, especially among the most vulnerable members of our community like young children.
We do so much to care for and protect our children. As a pediatrician and mother of two, I often wonder why would we put them at risk by ignoring a proven tool to avoid illness and keep them healthy. Although vaccines have made many diseases a distant memory in our nation, they still exist in the world. Let’s give our children the protection they need to live long and healthy lives.