uring the l950's, the image of tiny children stricken with polio, encased in the "iron lung," haunted parents throughout the world. When Dr. Jonas Salk announced the development of the polio vaccine, a universal sigh of relief could be heard in every neighborhood playground, park, and school. Polio had been conquered through medical research.
Ronald V. Marino, DO, MPH, Director of General Pediatrics at Winthrop
Alarmingly, some people may fail to take advantage of the benefits of the Salk polio vaccine today, and have become equally careless about having their children immunized against many other childhood diseases.
"Today, people are becoming much too complacent about communicable diseases, because they are not prevalent. This is due to the effectiveness of the immunization programs of past years. Once we fail to immunize properly, polio, mumps, measles, diphtheria, whooping cough and other diseases will return immediately — and virulently," observed Ronald V. Marino, DO, MPH, Director of General Pediatrics at Winthrop. "It is the ongoing responsibility of physicians, parents, and guardians to maintain vigilance about immunizing youngsters."
Diphtheria...tetanus...mumps... and measles...are among some common childhood diseases that caused illness, late effects, and even the deaths of innocent children in past generations. Survivors sometimes suffered hearing loss, sterility, scarring, and other long-term complications. Even today, polio and all other communicable diseases can be contracted by those who are not properly immunized - adults as well as children.
To ensure the proper vaccination of children, New York State has issued stringent new recommendations on required immunization for kindergarteners. Effective last September, 1999, all children who entered kindergarten were immunized against varicella (commonly known as chickenpox) and hepatitis B. Additional legislation, which becomes effective in September, 2000, will require that those who entered first grade or a higher grade in September, l999, and were not vaccinated against varicella, must be immunized upon entering seventh grade.
Today, mandatory childhood immunizations include the IPV (the inactivated polio vaccine, known as the Salk vaccine), MMR vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella, DTAP for diphtheria, tetanus, and acellular pertussis, along with immunizations against varicella, hepatitis B, and Haemophilus influenza type B.
Parents will soon have the option of having their babies immunized against pneumococcal pneumonia, beginning at the age of two months, followed with three to four booster shots at two month intervals. This vaccine protects children against the germ known as streptococcus pneumoniae, which can cause pneumonia, ear and bloodstream infections.
While all immunizations are crucial to maintaining the health of children, Dr. Marino's final warning concerns the urgency of having children vaccinated against polio.
"Today, only the inactivated virus — the Salk vaccine — is used to immunize against polio. The live polio virus, previously administered in the Sabin sugar cube, has been discontinued. Both the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics have voiced their strong support of the injectable Salk vaccination.
"Vaccines are constantly being developed and refined," concluded Dr. Marino. "As progress is made, the scheduling of inoculations may be altered. There is no reason for parents and guardians to attempt to memorize a schedule of immunizations for their children. It is better to keep in close touch with your child's pediatrician, and diligently follow his or her guidelines for immunization."
For further information about childhood vaccinations, contact your pediatrician or call Dr. Marino at (516) 663 - 4423.