Our Views: Back-to-school vaccinations are a private and public health issue _lowres

FILE - In this Thursday, Jan. 29, 2015 file photo, a pediatrician holds a dose of the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine at his practice in Northridge, Calif. A new study published in the journal Science suggests the measles vaccine not only prevents measles, but may also help the body ward off other infections. The vaccine was in the spotlight this year after a large measles outbreak linked to Disneyland sickened people in the U.S., Mexico and Canada. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)

Despite all the controversy about vaccines, their value in preventing the spread of serious illness is indisputable. That’s why parents in Louisiana should make sure that their school-age children are current in all of their vaccinations as the school year approaches.

Some parents have suggested that vaccines can produce autism in youngsters, and that belief has prompted a number of mothers and fathers across the country to refrain from getting their children immunized against various illnesses.

The idea of a connection between vaccines and Autism Spectrum Disorder, or ASD, has been widely debunked as junk science, most notably by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Here’s what the CDC said about the matter in a recent advisory: “There is no link between vaccines and autism. Some people have had concerns that ASD might be linked to the vaccines children receive, but studies have shown that there is no link between receiving vaccines and developing ASD. In 2011, an Institute of Medicine report on eight vaccines given to children and adults found that with rare exceptions, these vaccines are very safe.”

“Other parts of the country have seen a resurgence of measles, including Houston, which had a large outbreak last year,” said Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals Secretary Kathy Kliebert. “These vaccinations protect our children from these terrible diseases. Getting vaccinated is a simple process with big rewards. These vaccines help keep children healthy, so they can spend more days in the classroom learning and out of the doctor’s office.”

“When we don’t vaccinate, we leave the door open for the return of diseases such as measles and whooping cough, which continue to be a threat to babies, children and adults in the United States,” said DHH Immunization Medical Director Dr. Frank Welch. “School vaccination laws have helped eliminate major vaccine-preventable diseases. So, avoid the rush and take the time now to schedule your children for their back-to-school vaccinations.”

Parents can contact their child’s doctor to have children vaccinated. Children who are eligible to receive vaccinations at parish health units include those who have Medicaid, those without insurance, or children who are insured but their insurance company does not cover specific vaccinations, according to DHH. Those children who have insurance should contact their private provider for vaccination services.

Parents have an obligation not only to their children, but to the larger community, to have their sons and daughters vaccinated. It’s a private health issue, but a public health issue, too.