Highlight on Oklahoma: State Health Department Reminds Parents of Importance of Vaccines

While the decline of diseases such as measles, mumps, chickenpox, and whooping cough have led some parents to question whether vaccines are still necessary, the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) has warned parents that the vaccines are largely responsible for controlling outbreaks and those who skip these vaccines “place not just their own children but other children at risk of getting serious diseases.”

“When we don’t see children dying from measles or hospitalized due to Hib (Haemophilus influenza type b) it is difficult to realize how important vaccinations are for the health of our children,” said Lori Linstead, the director of the Immunization Service at the OSDH, in the press release. “Vaccines prevent diseases that not only kill children, but can also lead to lifelong disabilities. For example, before vaccines, parents in the United States could expect that every year Hib would cause meningitis in 15,000 children, leaving many with permanent brain damage.”

According to the press release, Oklahoma is 48th in the nation for the percent of children who are up-to-date with primary vaccinations, with only 61 percent of babies and toddlers having received their vaccines. The CDC reports that newborn babies have immunity from many diseases, thanks to antibodies from their mothers. This immunity fades during the first year of life, and vaccines help children’s bodies prevent diseases they might otherwise not be strong enough to fight.

“Vaccinating children on time is essential to preventing the return of vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles, whooping cough, and diphtheria,” Linstead said. Vaccines are available for those without health insurance through the federal Vaccines for Children program, in which all of Oklahoma’s county health departments, as well as many private doctors, participate.