Commentary: Vaccines protect you, your family and community

Pockets of our country are experiencing a significant uptick in the number of measles. Measles is not just a harmless childhood illness. It is actually a highly contagious, dangerous disease that can even be deadly.

But measles is also easily preventable with a safe and highly effective vaccine. It is especially important to remember the value of vaccines as we mark National Infant Immunization Week, which reminds us that vaccines are essential to the health of our youngest and most vulnerable.

As a regional director for the Department of Health and Human Services Region III, which includes Delaware, it’s my job to raise awareness of facts that can help protect the health of all Americans. Vaccines play an extremely important role in this goal because they save lives, protect your children from debilitating and deadly diseases, and promote the overall health of the community where you live and work.

Vaccines are safe and highly effective. There’s a lot of misinformation swirling around out there suggesting otherwise, so we want to get the facts out there.

Vaccines are among the most extensively studied medical products we have. Large studies undertaken over the years have confirmed their safety again and again. Vaccines do not cause autism and do not contain toxic chemicals. Any serious side effects from vaccines are exceedingly rare, and the protection from disease that vaccine provide outweighs any risks.

Some parents also wonder whether it is safe for children to get multiple vaccines in a day. The answer is yes, and we have years of science that backs that up. Even if your child gets several vaccines in a day, the weakened germs in vaccines that build protection make up only a tiny fraction of what a child’s immune system fights off every day.

If you’re a parent, talk to your child’s doctor and make sure your child is up to date on all of his or her scheduled vaccinations. This is especially important if you have an infant, because vaccinating your baby according to the recommended immunization schedule provides protection against 14 serious childhood illnesses.

If you’re an adult, check with your doctor about whether you’re up to date on your vaccines. If you’re a healthcare provider, explain to your patients that vaccines are safe, effective, and highly recommended, and remind them to stick to their vaccine schedule.

For measles in particular, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that children get two doses of the MMR vaccine, starting with the first dose at 12 to 15 months of age, and the second dose at 4 through 6 years of age.

You can find out more about the measles vaccine and other vaccines at Vaccines.gov.

Matthew Baker is regional director for the Department of Health and Human Services.Region III,

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