Each year, thousands of children become ill from diseases that could have been prevented by basic childhood immunizations. According to public health officials, there have been two disease outbreaks in recent years in the local health district: a major pertussis (Whooping Cough) outbreak that spread to four counties in 2010 and a varicella (chickenpox) outbreak in the fall of 2011.
“Giving babies the recommended immunizations by age two is the best way to protect them from serious childhood diseases, like whooping cough,” said Pat Fralick, Director of Family & Community Health Services. “We're encouraging parents and caregivers to check their babies' immunization records this week. Babies need several doses of vaccine before age two and it can be hard to keep track of which ones they need." Before they are fully immunized, babies need extra protection from becoming infected with pertussis from the people who are in close contact with them. Parents, grandparents, and caregivers should receive pertussis vaccine too. Immunizing both adults and infants is the best way to protect babies from contracting this serious disease.
Immunization is important because it prevents deadly diseases. In the days before immunization, millions of people died from devastating infectious diseases like diphtheria, polio, and whooping cough.
“Most of us have never seen first-hand the discomfort, disability, and even death that these diseases--all preventable through immunization--can cause, said Fralick. "They still exist today. In fact, we've seen local whooping cough and chickenpox outbreaks in recent years.”
Health Department staff work very hard to maintain high immunization rates. Every time a child visits a health department office, his/her immunization record is reviewed for missing doses of vaccine, no matter what the reason for their appointment.
The Health Department of Northwest Michigan is mandated by the Michigan Public Health Code to promote wellness, prevent disease, provide quality healthcare, address health problems of vulnerable populations, and protect the environment for the residents and visitors of Antrim, Charlevoix, Emmet, and Otsego counties.
For additional information about immunization, call your child's health care provider or the Health Department. Immunization appointments are available Health Department offices in Antrim, Charlevoix, Emmet, and Otsego counties by calling 800-432-4121.