Hello again, everybody! Two years ago, while we were awaiting the birth of our son Jacob, I was asked to give the keynote address to the Oklahoma Immunization Conference.
Getting ready to become a father, and research for my speech, helped me learn a lot about immunizations. As Oklahoma children get ready to return to school, parents should make sure their kids have recommended immunizations.
Every county health department in the state provides free immunizations, one of government’s most important services. We are blessed today that many diseases are preventable. The downside is many now believe diseases prevented by childhood immunizations are no longer with us.
Today’s young parents may never have known disease; they cannot imagine whooping cough routinely draining the life out of children. As a result, some delay or avoid childhood immunizations.
Some parents understandably wish to protect children from uncomfortable side effects of some immunizations. We must remember: all that stands between today’s children and the diseases of the past are the recommended childhood immunizations.
Today, in under-immunized areas of this world, 600,000 children die every year of whooping cough – a disease making a comeback in the United States. Almost a million children die from measles each year.
For many new parents, the only experience with measles came when “The Brady Bunch” came down with it. It only took a half-hour for everyone in the family to get sick and well, with no aftereffects.
Children that contract these preventable diseases sometimes suffer lifelong chronic health problems. Children who are not immunized are at risk of disease, a lifetime of suffering, or even death.
Not immunizing a child could put entire communities at risk. For example, the biggest cause of the 1989-1992 measles epidemic in the United States was the failure to vaccinate preschool children on time.
The epidemic was responsible for 55,000 cases and more than 120 deaths. Nearly half of those deaths were children under five. That is not a sitcom plot; it is a tragedy that was preventable.
Many of those lost would have graduated high school by now. Almost all of us attended a graduation ceremony over the past few months. In the eyes of those graduates we saw hopes, dreams and unlimited potential. That is what we risk losing by not immunizing children.
It is a tragedy to lose even one more child to a wholly preventable disease for which immunizations are provided free of charge. Nothing, not even money, should stand in the way of protecting this generation and those yet unborn.
Immunization is one of the greatest medical success stories of the last century; countless lives have been saved and unimagined suffering averted. Nothing is as important as protecting children, and immunizations are a great way to make tomorrow better for all our children.
For more information about immunizations, including when the free immunizations are offered, simply call your county health department.
Thanks again for reading the “Senate Minute,” have a great week, and may God bless you all.