There is some debate around the country about vaccinating children. Oregon has the highest number of unvaccinated children in the nation and there is currently a bill in the legislature that would require schools to publish their immunization rates. This has reignited arguments about vaccinations on Internet forums and social media, but the doctors and nurses at The Portland Clinic say the science overwhelmingly supports the safety and benefits of immunization programs.
In April, Portland will join hundreds of cities across the United States — and countries around the world — to celebrate the successes of immunization programs and highlight the importance of protecting the health of our children, families and communities. The U.S. celebrates National Infant Immunization Week (April 22-29, 2017) as part of World Immunization Week (April 24-30, 2017), an initiative of the World Health Organization.
This is an ideal time to revisit some of the key facts surrounding immunization programs.
What is a vaccine?
A vaccine is a biological preparation that stimulates immunity to a disease. Traditional vaccines contain microbes that have been killed or weakened so that they don’t cause disease. When a person is inoculated with a vaccine (through injection, ingestion or inhalation), the immune system quickly clears these harmless versions of the microorganisms from the body. In turn, the body remembers the germs and develops antibodies, so that later in life when it encounters the real, live, virulent germs, it may be able to fight them off with the retained memory/antibodies.
Protecting yourself and others through herd immunity
Herd immunity is about safety in numbers. If more people are immune to a certain virus or bacteria, then other people in the population, even if they themselves aren’t immune — for example, individuals who cannot receive vaccines due to a weakened immune system — are protected from the disease. When a high percentage of a population is vaccinated against a virus or bacteria, it’s difficult for a disease to spread because there are few people left to infect. Opting to vaccinate can help stop the spread of disease and contribute, not only to the health of the greater Portland community, but to worldwide health.
Even when diseases are rare here, they can still be common in many parts of the world and brought into the country by unvaccinated individuals. Consider measles, a disease that vaccination virtually eliminated in the United States in recent decades. In 2014, the U.S. experienced a record number of measles infections with 667 cases in 27 states. The majority of these victims were unvaccinated and the index or causative cases had traveled from other parts of the world where measles is common.
Vaccines can prevent a disease from occurring and decrease the risk of complications and risk of transmission.
The doctors and nurses at The Portland Clinic recommend the immunization schedule published by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). While this schedule is recommended for most individuals, there are reasons certain people should not be vaccinated. The most common exception is if a person has a weakened immune system due to an existing health condition. Other exceptions include children who are too young to be vaccinated and those who are too ill (such as some cancer patients).
The doctors and nurses at The Portland Clinic are committed to keeping Portland families healthy and safe and recommend getting your child and yourself immunized. If you have concerns or questions about vaccines or would like to speak with one of our physicians about vaccinations for yourself or a loved one, please call The Portland Clinic at 503-223-3113 to schedule an appointment (please note: we cannot provide medical advice to nonpatients).