Mary Kay VanDriel: Health Matters: Protecting your child and others with vaccination

By Mary Kay VanDriel, R. N.

August is Immunization Awareness Month nationwide. Appropriate vaccination for children and adults is very important, not only to protect our loved ones, but also to prevent spreading disease to others.

We in health care have noted the disheartening increase in parents opting out of vaccination for their children. As a nurse and hospital administrator, I’m acutely aware of the downside of resistance to vaccination and the price that can be paid in illness and even death.

I asked Dr. Adrienne Aschmetat, who is both a pediatrician and internal medicine specialist at Big Rapids Family Medicine, to share her advice on vaccination.

Here is some of what she had to say:

“In our pediatrics practice, we highly value the importance of vaccines. We feel they are a source of protection from illnesses that, historically, killed and injured millions. These viruses and bacteria were chosen specifically because of the risks associated with them. We have taken care of children that have suffered from some of these illnesses and, most unfortunately, some have died fighting them. Even something like influenza can be devastating.

“The protection provided by vaccines helps prevent these devastating losses in our community. Each child vaccinated protects not just themselves, but also infants too young to be vaccinated, elders too sick to be vaccinated, and immune-deficient individuals (including cancer patients being treated with chemotherapy) who can’t be vaccinated. Due to this, I advocate for the vaccination of children in my professional care.

“In general, most families who decline vaccinations do so out of fear. They fear the potential or rumored complications of vaccines more than the illnesses they prevent. There are a number of myths surrounding vaccination. Vaccines have been tested for complications, allergies and adverse effects and have been found to be safer than becoming ill with the viruses and bacteria they protect against.

“My role as the provider is to help allay the fears surrounding vaccines and to educate families about the risks of declination, with the goal to optimize the protection of our children.

“Some of the most important vaccinations include measles, whooping cough (pertussis), flu, polio, pneumonia and related diseases. These and other serious illnesses can be prevented through age-appropriate vaccination.”

I urge everyone in our community to carefully consider the wise words of Dr. Aschmetat. During Immunization Awareness Month, I encourage you to consult with your doctor on vaccinations appropriate for your family.

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