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Immunization Rates Encouraging

Immunization Rates Encouraging

According to the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) National Immunization Survey, more young children are getting immunized in Iowa. Mahaska Health Partnership Pediatrician John O’Brien, MD, said these immunizations give every child the chance to live a life free from vaccine-preventable disease.

“This is great news,” Dr. O’Brien said.  “It is always better to prevent a disease than to have to suffer with the symptoms and try to treat it.”

The CDC’s study indicated that 73% of 2-year-old children in Iowa have received the recommended immunizations, compared to the national average of 70%. “Vaccines are the most effective way to protect children from disease,” Dr. O’Brien stated. “Infants are especially vulnerable to illness so it’s encouraging to hear that parents are following the immunization schedule.”

Dr. O’Brien said it is easy for parents to become passive about immunizations. “It’s not fun to bring your child to the doctor for shots. Some people think that because they don’t hear about disease outbreaks such as measles or whooping cough their children do not need to be immunized.

“However, the exact opposite is true. As immunization rates fall, instances of disease increase. When people are immunized, they are unable to pass infections so disease rates fall.”

The CDC explains that vaccines are responsible for controlling many infectious diseases that were once common in the United States including polio, mumps and tetanus. Vaccines work by helping the body build immunity. When a germ enters the body, the immune system recognizes it as a foreign invader and produces antibodies to fight it. Vaccines contain just enough of the same germs to trigger the body to produce antibodies but not infect the patient.

“When injected into fatty tissue or muscle, these weakened or dead vaccines are not strong enough to make a person sick,” Dr. O’Brien said. “But they do introduce enough of the germ to trigger the body to develop immunity against it.”

The CDC cautioned that if a child is not vaccinated and is exposed to a disease germ, the child’s body may not be strong enough to fight it. Before vaccines, many children died from disease that vaccines now prevent. “These same germs all still exist today,” Dr. O’Brien stressed.

Dr. O’Brien also noted that having your child vaccinated helps protect others. “There are certain people in our population who cannot get vaccinations because they are too young or due to complex disease processes. By vaccinating your child, you are protecting those who cannot receive the vaccine against potentially lethal infections.”

Dr. O’Brien’s practice, MHP Pediatrics, is located on the MHP campus in Oskaloosa and is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm. Dr. O’Brien participates in the Vaccines for Children Program for Medicaid and uninsured children, birth to 18 years. To make an appointment with Dr. O’Brien, call 672-3360. To learn more about how Mahaska Health Partnership is making healthcare personal, visit mahaskahealth.org.