Parents sending their kids back to school may purchase warm winter jackets, fuzzy mittens, ear muffs and slip-resistant shoes, but what’s really essential to their safety is having updated medical records. To prevent the spread of many common illnesses like chickenpox, mumps and whooping cough, school systems often require that each student receive mandatory immunizations and regular physicals.
According to many physicians, these requirements are beneficial. Still, many parents are shying away from vaccinating their children.
“Immunizations are not as appreciated as they used to be,”says Dr. Charles Shubin, the Director of Pediatrics for Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore. “There are a lot of children who are not as current [with immunizations] as they need to be.”
Dr. Andrew Lieber, founder and Chief Medical Officer of Rose Pediatrics in Denver, and Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Mary Beth Petraco, who is the Chair of Long Island's Legislative Affairs Committee of the Nurse Practitioners Association, also report a decrease in vaccination visits. All three physicians partially attribute the decline to a belief that many formally fatal diseases no longer subsist, a sentiment easily disproven by a 2008 outbreak of measles in San Diego. The outbreak occurred when an unvaccinated boy contracted measles while traveling in Europe. While the boy unknowingly exposed 839 people to the disease, 11 more unvaccinated children also fell ill. Among them were three babies too young to receive immunizations.
“By not getting vaccinated, you not only put the healthy child at risk,” Petraco says, “You put the poor, defenseless children who can’t receive the vaccination for medical or other reasons at risk as well.”
While many parents may still chose not to vaccinate since they don’t want any unknown or potentially harmful substances injected into their children’s bodies, those that are electing to immunize should talk the their pediatricians about the what vaccinations are required in their school district.