A Healthy Start Begins with On-Time Vaccinations

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Heidi Parker | Immunize Nevada

This column appears in the Nevada Appeal Wednesday’s health pages. It addresses topics related to the health of our community.

We know car seats, baby gates, and bike helmets keep kids safe. But, did you know that one of the best safeguards is when children are up to date on vaccines? Every dose, of every vaccine, is essential. Vaccines prevent 14 serious and potentially deadly diseases before age 2. National Infant Immunization Week is April 27 – May 4. It is a reminder that children need vaccines right from the start. Children need vaccines on time, every time.

One of those diseases we keep hearing about is measles. In 2018, there were 17 outbreaks of measles that involved 372 people. Already in 2019, 268 cases of measles have been reported in 15 states. The good news is that we have a solution: vaccines.

What do you need to know about measles?

Measles can be serious. Measles starts with a high fever, cough, runny nose, and red, watery eyes. Then white spots can appear inside the mouth. At 3-5 days a rash begins. Some people think of measles as a little rash and fever that clears up in a few days. However, measles can cause ear infections, pneumonia, brain swelling and death. In the United States, 1 in 4 people with measles will be admitted to the hospital. Children younger than five years of age are really at risk. There is no way to know ahead of time how bad the symptoms might get.

Measles easily spreads. Measles spreads through the air when a person with measles coughs or sneezes. The measles virus can stay active for two hours after a cough or sneeze. Measles moves quickly from one person to the next. If one person has measles, 9 out of 10 unprotected people around him or her will also get infected. Measles can be spread to others before symptoms appear. Measles is spread from four days before getting the measles rash through four days afterward. To learn more about measles, visit https://immunizenevada.org/measles

The best protection is the MMR vaccine. Parents can protect children against measles with a safe and effective vaccine. Two doses of MMR vaccine are required for childcare and school enrollment. A child gets the first MMR at 12 months of age.  The second dose is needed at 4-5 years of age. Your child may get the MMRV vaccine. This vaccine protects against measles, mumps, rubella, and varicella (chickenpox).

If a child does not have insurance, there is help available. If a child’s insurance does not cover vaccines there is help available. The Vaccines for Children (VFC) Program helps families who cannot afford vaccines. To find out if your child qualifies, visit the VFC website at www.vfcnevada.org or ask your healthcare provider.

Today’s childhood vaccines protect against serious and potentially life-threatening diseases, including polio, whooping cough, and chickenpox. Thanks to global efforts, measles deaths have dropped by 84% since 2000. Now, we need to finish the job and protect every child from all vaccine-preventable diseases. To celebrate the public health achievements of vaccines and the importance of immunizations throughout our lives – Immunize Nevada is joining with partners nationwide in recognizing April 27- May 4th as National Infant Immunization Week (NIIW). Every child should have a shot at a healthy life, in Nevada, the U.S., and worldwide.

If you have questions about measles or any of other vaccine-preventable diseases, please visit www.immunizenevada.org or follow us on social media.