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Why is it important for all children to get immunized?

January 21, 2015

Pediatrician on need for vaccinations: ‘I go home at night and worry about children who are not protected’

  • Medical School
California measles outbreak prompts call to vaccinate

As a measles outbreak linked to Disneyland continues spreading across the West Coast, a new study in Pediatrics has identified clusters of California communities in which high percentages of children are under-immunized, or whose parents have refused to immunize their children at all.

The mounting cases of measles and the evidence of under-immunization clusters have public health experts stressing the importance of childhood vaccinations against preventable diseases such as measles, mumps, rubella, pertussis and meningitis.

“The diseases that we immunize children against now are still around in small numbers and we have seen many examples from around the world and this country that when we immunize fewer kids, those diseases become more common,” said Richard Moriarty, MD, clinical professor of pediatrics. “These are diseases that can lead to hospitalization, can lead to brain injury, can lead to children dying. These diseases are all preventable if we immunize.”

California public health officials have linked an outbreak of dozens of measles cases to people who visited Disneyland between Dec. 15 and Dec. 20. As of Jan. 20, 51 cases have been reported, primarily in California, but also in Utah, Washington, Colorado and Mexico. Most of the sick had not been vaccinated against the disease.

Meanwhile, in a study published Sunday in Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, researchers at Kaiser Permanente examined electronic health records of more than 150,000 children in their health system to determine how many had missed one or more vaccinations or whose parents had refused them entirely. They found five statistically significant clusters of under-immunization or vaccine refusal.

“I felt strongly enough about these vaccinations that I gave them to my own children. I recommended them very strongly for my grandchildren,” Dr. Moriarty said. “I go home at night and worry about kids that aren’t protected.”

Hear more about the importance of childhood vaccinations in this Pediatrics Corner video.