The past is still present. This comment could not be more relevant to the topic of vaccinations. After attending a Lunch & Learn about the importance of protecting ourselves and our families against Pertussis (or “whooping cough”), I walked away with a new found interest in the history of vaccine-preventable diseases. I know I always find myself looking at current news and stories about vaccines, but taking a moment to look back at what once was, and what still is, has opened my eyes even further to the importance immunizations play in our lives.
At any given time, we are all guilty of living in the “out-of-sight, out-of-mind” mantra, but that is a risky game to play when making decisions about our health or the health of our loved ones. For the longest time, I never heard about, or paid attention to news concerning outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases. As recently as five-years ago I honestly thought that these were diseases of the past. They were merely afflictions of the dark ages that we were fortunate enough to live without. So why did I stay up to date on my vaccinations? I did it because it was recommended. No thought went into my actions. As I prepared to welcome my first child to this world, I suddenly became aware that I had to make responsible decisions about his health and mine. My reasons for vaccinating changed as I stepped back and acknowledged that these vaccinations are still necessary. Not because of some outdated protocol, or old-school way of thinking, but because these diseases still exist and pose a threat to our lives.
I could not imagine being the cause of a child’s illness, or even death, because I chose not to vaccinate.
With a disease like Pertussis, young infants typically contract the illness from their mother, father, or close relative. It is just not a risk worth taking.
As recently as 1963 (the year of the first measles vaccine) virtually every person in the United States contracted measles by age twenty. This serious and highly contagious disease resulted in an estimated three to four million cases each year in the United States alone, resulting in four to five-hundred deaths. Thanks to the measles vaccine, there has been a greater than ninety-nine percent reduction in reported cases. But do not allow such a positive message about vaccines to mislead you into a false sense of security. This year alone, measles outbreaks and exposure have been reported in Indiana, Delaware, California, and Kansas. These outbreaks are certainly not contained to the United States as unvaccinated Americans acquire this disease, and many others, when traveling to countries where outbreaks are widespread due to low vaccination rates.
As people continue to opt out of vaccinating against vaccine-preventable diseases, a resurgence of these deadly illnesses continues to rise. Don’t let the diseases of the past become the problems of today. Always remember, the past is still present.