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Vaccinations Matter, From Sauk County To Congo

November 24, 2019

The news this weekend about the sorry state of vaccinating children for a variety of diseases is most distressing to read.  This is one of the most perplexing situations, and due to the impact on children, the saddest that I have needed to write about on this blog.

The Portage Daily Register painted a local dilemma for parents and health care professionals.  

Only 65.59% of 2-year-olds in Sauk County were considered “up to date” with the recommended vaccinations in 2018, down nearly 3% since 2013, according to the state Department of Health Services. Being up to date means they completed the “combined seven-vaccine series” that guards them against preventable diseases like measles, Hepatitis B, diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough and more.

“We were in the high 80s and low 90s when I started 15 years ago,” Barbara Walsh said of her time as a nurse with the Sauk County Health Department. “The current numbers are startling.”

I like to understand things.  Be able to wrap my mind around a topic and at least be able to describe it with some level of reasoning.  But there is no way to get a handle on the lack of awareness exhibited by a growing number of parents about the absolute necessity for making sure children are immunized for a whole array of diseases.   The alarming rate that people are moving towards divorcing themselves from facts is not only troubling for our political discussions but is having life and death consequences for children.

Adequately protecting a community from most vaccine-preventable diseases, sometimes referred to as “herd immunity,” requires a population to be immunized at a rate greater than 80%, Walsh and other public health employees said. Adequate measles protection, however, requires at least 93% protection, and recent measles outbreaks elsewhere in the U.S. have only magnified concerns about the low local rates.

The worldwide tragedy of not making sure the needed resources and staff are available for the immunization of children—with proven data demonstrating the efficacy for such programs–is simply heartbreaking.

More than 5,000 people, mostly children, have been killed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in what is currently the world’s biggest measles epidemic.

Measles, which is preventable through vaccination, has spread to all 26 provinces of the country, which is also battling a 15-month-long Ebola epidemic.

About a quarter of a million people in DRC are thought to have been infected by measles this year alone, more than three times the number infected in 2018. Three-quarters of cases, and around nine in 10 deaths, involve children younger than five years old.

Vaccines are widely agreed to be one of the great achievements of the scientific age. A survey of eminent historians by The Atlantic put vaccines as number eight in a list of the “greatest breakthroughs since the wheel.” And an article by the US librarian of Congress published in National Geographic placed vaccines fifth out of “ten inventions that changed the world.

Simplistic jargon and crazed conspiracy theories have placed children in our nation in peril to diseases that in most cases were eradicated.  It boggles the mind to consider, at a time when we should be marshaling resources and strategy to combat lack of vaccinated children in poor and at times war-ravaged areas, that we also need to convince otherwise educated and economically stable people in Wisconsin to have their children vaccinated. 

I repeat the line from the top of this blog post.

This is one of the most perplexing situations, and due to the impact on children, the saddest that I have needed to write about on this blog.

We simply must do better.

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