By: Joseph Bocchini, MD
Throughout my career as a pediatrician, I have witnessed the number of vaccine preventable diseases disappear after the introduction of a vaccine. These discoveries have proven to be some of the most important public health advancements in both the 20th and 21st centuries, and have helped protect against many severe infections that cause significant illnesses and fatalities in both children and adults.
During the COVID-19 lockdown, many people fell behind on receiving their routine immunizations and now there is an increased need for both children and adults to catch up and, going forward, to vaccinate on schedule to protect our families as early as possible and prevent outbreaks.
This is important because many of the organisms responsible for vaccine preventable diseases continue to be present in our communities and being unvaccinated leaves a person susceptible to infection.
Some diseases are making a comeback
Recently, we have seen a rise in the number of measles related outbreaks among children and adults who were unvaccinated. Even more recently, there has been a reported polio case in an unvaccinated adult.
Immunizations throughout adolescence are important. Of vaccines recommended for 11–12-year-olds, the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine has the lowest percentage of doses administered. HPV causes almost all cervical cancers, most cancers of the genital area, and is responsible for 70% of throat cancers. Researchers expect the HPV vaccine to prevent up to 90% of the 40,000 new cancers associated with the Human Papillomavirus, which occur in the US each year.
It is important that everyone – especially parents – understand the importance of vaccines. I urge individuals of all ages to stay aware of their immunizations and continue to stay on schedule for their vaccinations.
About Dr. Joseph Bocchini – Pediatrician and Pediatric Infectious Disease Specialist who has practiced medicine for more than 45 years. He currently serves as the Director of Children’s Health Services for the Willis-Knighton Health System in Shreveport, Louisiana.