If you really want to help keep your kids healthy, get immunized.
More and more, this is the message that public health officials are sending out to parents and others who care for children. And it's a message that people really need to listen to.
We're trying to create something called herd immunity. When enough people are immunized against a disease, it becomes uncommon — simply because the immunized people can't catch it. And when it's uncommon, then it obviously decreases the chance that someone who isn't immunized will get infected.
Herd immunity is particularly important because it helps to protect:
Herd immunity works when enough people are immunized. But the "enough" is the tricky part. We've been hearing in the news about outbreaks of pertussis (whooping cough) and measles. Many of these outbreaks are happening in parts of the country where immunization rates are low because of worry about vaccines. Sadly, this worry is mostly unwarranted. We have even seen babies die, which is tragic.
Many people are working hard to not only ensure the safety of vaccines, but educate all parents about the safety and importance of vaccinations. In the meantime, if you are a parent or someone who takes care of or works with children, here's what you can do to help:
Not only will you help keep yourself healthy, you could literally save lives. So be a hero. Get immunized.
Claire McCarthy, M.D., a senior medical editor for Harvard Health Publications, is an assistant professor in pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. She is an attending physician and Medical Communications Editor at Children's Hospital Boston.