A shot in the arm

It’s back-to-school season. It’s a time when parents will be purchasing notebooks, glue sticks and new school clothes. It’s also the time to make sure that your immunization records are up to date.

Influenza, pertussis (whooping cough), and measles are just a few of the infectious diseases still plaguing babies and adults in parts of the United States today. Last year there were more than 4,100 confirmed and probable cases of pertussis in Minnesota, including several here in Lyon County. But fortunately, these are preventable by vaccines.

Today, the March of Dimes and Sanofi-Pasteur are partners in the “Sounds of Pertussis” campaign urging parents, grandparents, other relatives and caregivers to get a booster shot for pertussis, a highly contagious and potentially fatal disease in babies, so they won’t unknowingly infect the newborns in their lives. The pertussis vaccine is reported to have saved more than a half a million lives in 2002 alone.

According to statistics from the Minnesota Department of Health, in Lyon County, more than 95 percent of babies through 5-year-old children receive two or more vaccines. But when it comes to adults, only 40-59 percent receive two or more vaccines.

Immunizations are as important today as they were in the 1950s when the March of Dimes delivered the first vaccines against polio. The March of Dimes was founded in 1938 by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to combat polio, an epidemic disease that paralyzed or killed up to 52,000 Americans, mostly children, every year. The March of Dimes fulfilled President Roosevelt’s dream of a nation free of this fearful disease by funding the development of the first safe and effective polio vaccines by Dr. Jonas Salk and Dr. Albert Sabin.

Following the successful development of the polio vaccines, the March of Dimes supported many other important immunization campaigns. For example, Dr. Virginia Apgar worked with the March of Dimes to lead a national immunization program against rubella (German measles), which can cause a range of serious birth defects if contracted during pregnancy. The campaign was so successful that there has not been a case of congenital rubella syndrome in the U.S. in more than 30 years.

The March of Dimes continues to fund vaccine research and to work with international coalitions seeking to improve immunization rates and eradicate preventable diseases so they will never again threaten babies and children. For more about vaccines visit vaccines.com/wordofmom.