August is Immunization Awareness Month and a good reminder not to underestimate the importance of immunizations. In the case of small pox, the World Health Assembly declared it eradicated, but it is the only infectious disease to reach this status. Other diseases—including polio and diphtheria—are close but still maintain a presence. Failure to vaccinate children puts others at risk. Even a few isolated cases of these diseases are capable of spreading and undoing the progress that has been done.
For a cautionary tale about the importance of vaccinating, look no farther than Japan. In the mid-1970s, the country had nearly eliminated pertussis (whooping cough) with just a few hundred cases remaining. When word got out about the progress, some parents chose not to vaccinate their kids for the disease. Within just five years, the disease surged with 13,000 reported cases of whooping cough.
Parents are primarily responsible for keeping track of kids’ immunizations. If you have misplaced your child’s records, reach out to past health providers or school nurses. Most states and some cities also keep vaccination registries that could help you piece together your child’s shot history.
When you visit your health care provider, ask for an “official record” of the vaccinations (signed by a provider). Keep the record in a safe place in your home—perhaps in a vinyl (waterproof) folder.
For more details about what shots are required at specific ages, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.