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Immunization


A six-month-old relies on an immunized community for protection since she is too young to be vaccinated


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unstoppable and, at one time, struck fear into the hearts of families. T e polio virus aff ects the central nervous system and paralyzes its victims — a potentially deadly threat, especially if it aff ects the chest and prevents a child from breathing. Victims of polio often spent days or months in the iron lung, a large breathing machine that helped oxygenate the body, while waiting for the virus to run its course. T ere was no alternative. Even those who were lucky enough to escape breathing problems were often left perma- nently paralyzed. In the same way, the symptoms of diphtheria may also be unfamiliar to today’s parents. Spread easily by a cough or a sneeze, the bacteria compromise the nose and throat, making breathing diffi cult. Often a gray membrane develops, blocking a child’s airway and causing suff ocation. Before the diphtheria immunization, par- ents often experienced panic at the fi rst sign of their child’s troubled breathing, worried that they might have diphtheria. Even worse, diphtheria sometimes aff ected more than just the respiratory system, leav- ing some children with


The fear of past diseases may fade, but the importance of immunization efforts should not


permanent heart and kidney damage. T e ability to prevent such illnesses with simple vaccines is nothing short of remarkable, but vaccines have become vic- tim to their own success. Because the oc- currence of these deadly diseases has faded from view, sometimes the importance of immunization does, too. As a result, immunization, which was once heralded as the silent hero, sometimes stands wrong- fully accused of causing a whole myriad of other unrelated problems. T e fear of these diseases may fade, but


the importance of immunization eff orts should not. Sometimes parents question whether we still need vaccines. Unfortu- nately, the answer is yes. Even if a parent has never seen these diseases, their danger is ever present in today’s connected world.


The Battle Continues Every year, illnesses easily prevented with immunizations still account for the deaths of 1.4 million children around the globe. T irty million kids suff er from measles alone, and, of those, 750,000 die every year. In countries where immunizations aren’t readily available, parents are still


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