Nurse’s Notes: Why We Immunize

syringe-1597515_1280This past summer, The BFG made it to the big screen, beckoning children and adults alike to enter the imaginary world that author Roald Dahl so brilliantly and magically creates.

The movie is an adaptation of Dahl’s book of the same name and though the movie was dedicated to the late screenwriter Melissa Mathison, the book, you will find, is dedicated to Olivia–Roald Dahl’s oldest daughter. Olivia died in 1962, at the age of 7, after contracting measles.

In those days, measles killed 400 to 500 people each year and left thousands of children with lifelong disability. The vaccine that could have prevented Olivia’s death did not come out until 1963.  In 1988, concerned about the anti-vaccine trend, Mr. Dahl penned an open letter to parents urging them to take full advantage of the immunization that came too late for his family.  That letter is widely accessible on the internet and on the late author’s website.  It bears reading as a reminder of what our past looked like.

Thanks to an accessible and effective vaccination program, measles had virtually been eliminated in the U.S. by the year 2000.  However, measles is still common in other countries.  The virus is highly contagious and can spread quickly in areas where people are unvaccinated.  In 2015, the United States experienced a large, multi-state measles outbreak linked to an amusement park in California.

When infectious diseases, like measles, make their way into a community, not only are those unvaccinated at risk of contracting the disease, but also the most vulnerable among us—the infant, the child with cancer, the child with genetic immune deficiency or underlying disease, and the elderly.  And so we aim for “herd immunity”—when enough people are immune to a disease, the “herd” protects those who cannot safely receive a vaccine.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, “to maintain herd immunity, communities have to vaccinate enough residents to protect the small number of people who cannot receive a vaccination for medical reasons. For example, medical experts say that between 92% and 95% of children should receive two doses of the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine to maintain herd immunity against measles.”

Under Arizona law, all schools must conduct a mandatory immunization audit and submit a report each fall.  If you have been notified that your child is deficient in one or more immunizations, please see your health care provider, or visit one of the many free immunization clinics throughout the Valley, to bring his/her immunizations up to date.  This is especially important as we approach flu season.

For questions or concerns, please contact Nurse Shannon David in our school office at 480-967-5567.