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Childhood Shots Are Important To Health
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Getting shots is not a pleasant experience, but the large numbers of Americans immunized have helped eliminate widespread death and disability brought on by disease.
Linda Patterson, health education specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said 82 percent of Mississippi 2-year-olds had their basic immunizations at last count in 1998.
"This group had all the shots required by the state for their age for the vaccine-preventable diseases," Patterson said.
This standard immunization regime in Mississippi includes diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, polio, measles, mumps and rubella. Other immunizations, such as for chicken pox and hepatitis B or HIB, are recommended, but not required immunizations for a school attendance certificate.
Immunizations are important for both the health of the child and the public's health. Patterson said there are many diseases children can avoid today if they just receive the proper vaccines at the right time. Having more immunized children also benefits society at large.
"The more people who are immunized, the less likely a disease will become a public health problem," Patterson said. "Before we had immunizations, there was widespread disease and disability resulting in the loss of many children. Immunizations played an important part in putting an end to these epidemics in the United States."
Immunization recommendations change on occasion, prompted by research or disease outbreaks. A recent outbreak of measles at the University of Mississippi temporarily shut the school down. Health officials learned from this experience that people immunized for measles before they were 18 months old were not immune for life without a second vaccination.
While most Mississippians are current on their shots, not all have had the basic immunizations.
"Children under school age and adults over age 50 have higher percentages of incomplete vaccinations," Patterson said.
Some children fail to have all their immunizations because records have been lost, doctors or patients moved away and parents assume they've had their shots because they go to the doctor regularly.
"I recommend that people keep a record of their child's immunizations, which includes when they had the shots, where they had them and who administered them," Patterson said. "This is just a backup plan in case your records are lost or become unavailable for some reason."
Patterson recommends a doctor or public health nurse review each person's shot record annually after age 2 to ensure the person is properly immunized.