CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Infant immunizations can save a child’s life. That’s why the state Department of Health and Human Resources is promoting National Infant Immunization Week this week.
Charleston pediatrician Dr. Raheel Khan joined others at a kick-off event Monday. He said the state is near the top of the nation when it comes to kids and their vaccines.
“West Virginia, as you probably know, is one of only two states that do not recognize non-medical exemptions to immunizations. That helps keep up our rates,” the doctor said.
The immunization number for children entering kindergarten is at 96 percent but for the newborn to 4-year-old population the rate drops to 61 percent. The national average is 68 percent.
“The biggest challenge in our state is that even though we get our kids immunized by the time they’re ready to start school, often they’re left unimmunized (as babies) and they’re susceptible to some of these vaccine preventable diseases,” according to Dr. Khan.
Three diseases that were nearly unheard of 15 years ago are making a comeback. Pediatricians are seeing more and more cases of the measles, mumps and pertussis or whooping cough.
Two hundred cases of the mumps were recently reported in Ohio.
Khan said many times parents are hesitant to immunize their very young children because of a fear they’ll fall ill. Dr. Khan said you’re taking a greater risk not having them immunized.
“Vaccines, certainly, they have some minor side effects but when you weigh and balance the risks and benefits, the benefits outweigh the risks by a huge, huge margin,” he said.
He urged parents to talk with their pediatricians if they have concerns about the safety of vaccine and even do some research on their own. Khan is convinced parents will realize vaccines are a must.
Currently there are 14 serious childhood vaccine-preventable diseases: Diphtheria, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Influenza, Measles, Rotavirus, Haemophilus Influenza type B, Tetanus, Mumps, Pertussis, Pneumococcal , Polio, Rubella and Chickenpox.