Moms and dads: Do this one thing to protect your children

To all you fellow moms out there (and any dads as well), this column is for you.

We all love our kids, right? And we’d do anything we can to keep them safe. Well, one of the most important things you can do to protect your children is to make sure they’re vaccinated.

I know because as an RN who specializes in infection prevention, I’ve seen children and adults suffer needlessly from diseases that could have been easily prevented by proper immunization.  Just recently we have seen outbreaks of measles and chickenpox, both of which could have been prevented by vaccination. Also, just last week, the Department of Health declared widespread influenza across our state. The predominant strain, H1N1, is particularly dangerous for children and younger adults. A flu shot can help prevent this dangerous illness.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Family Physicians all agree on a schedule of immunizations. The recommended vaccines for infants include MMR (measles, mumps and rubella), polio, varicella (or chickenpox) and hepatitis B, among others. Older kids should add meningitis and human papillomavirus vaccines to the list. And all of us – kids to senior citizens – should receive an annual flu shot. (It’s not too late this year to get it!)

We’re fortunate because many of us don’t recall the days when children by the hundreds were sickened by these illnesses. Before the measles vaccine became available in 1963, the annual measles death toll in the United States was about 440 during the 1950s. The 1950s were also the height of the polio epidemic in the United States. In 1952 alone, nearly 60,000 children were infected with the virus; thousands were paralyzed and more than 3,000 died.

I fear that we are reaching a point now where our fading memories of past epidemics have made us complacent, or at least uniformed, about the importance of vaccination.

Diseases that have been all but eliminated in the United States are appearing more often. New Jersey is experiencing a measles outbreak with 30 confirmed cases in Ocean County and three more in Passaic. Most of the cases were in individuals who were not up-to-date on the MMR vaccine. That allowed the illness to spread widely from what is believed to be the initial exposure of an unvaccinated individual who had recently traveled to Israel.

And that’s another key point: Vaccination is especially important for anyone who is traveling overseas. Vaccination rates are often lower in other countries, and the threat of exposure is greater. A serious and contagious disease is not the kind of souvenir you want to bring home to your loved ones.

Even the common flu can be deadly for the unvaccinated. Last year’s flu season claimed 185 young lives in the United States and about 80 percent of them had not received a flu shot, according to the CDC. (The total death toll including adults is typically in the tens of thousands, but the CDC has yet to release formal numbers.)

Mom and dad, you’re the protector for your child. Ask your family’s doctor or visit the CDC website at to learn more. Get educated; and get them vaccinated.

Shannon Davila, RN, is director of the Institute for Quality and Patient Safety at the New Jersey Hospital Association.

Icn Link About the Author

Shannon Davila, RN, MSN, is the director of the Institute for Quality and Patient Safety at NJHA. She leads clinical improvement programs under the Partnership for Patients initiative. An infection prevention specialist, Davila was named a 2016 Hero of Infection Prevention by the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology.

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