Time for Shots

If you’re young and single, you may think I’m talking about those little glasses of vodka or whiskey meant to be downed in one quick swallow. If you’re a parent of school-aged children, you know I’m talking about back-to-school vaccinations, which are not nearly so enticing.

Way back in 1905, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the authority of the states to enforce compulsory vaccination laws (Jacobson v. Massachusetts, 197 U.S. 11). Childhood immunizations protect children from diseases which can have serious complications:

Measles – About one out of 10 children with measles also gets an ear infection, and up to one out of 20 gets pneumonia. For every 1,000 children who get measles, one or two will die.

Mumps – This disease can cause acquired sensorineural hearing loss in children. More rare are cases of mumps-associated encephalitis, which can be fatal.

Diphtheria/tetanus/pertussis – Diphtheria was once a major cause of illness and death among children, fatal in up to half of cases, but is no longer a problem in the U.S. due to vaccines. Caused by bacteria entering through a cut in the skin, tetanus can cause muscle contractions and seizures, pneumonia and pulmonary embolisms, with a fatality rate of 10-20%. Pertussis (whooping cough) is highly contagious and can be fatal in infants. In 2012, there were 48,277 reported cases in the U.S.

Polio – Polio is a crippling and potentially fatal infectious disease which has no cure. It spreads from person to person invading the brain and spinal cord and causing paralysis.

These are just some of the common childhood diseases for which vaccines have been developed and for which children must be immunized before attending school or a daycare facility. South Carolina’s immunization program is under the direction of the Department of Health and Environmental Control, and you can see the entire schedule of required vaccines for the 2014-15 school year.

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