CHARLOTTE - If the Mecklenburg County Health Department realizes its dream, every child in Mecklenburg County will be safe from vaccine-preventable childhood disease.
"Today, children can be vaccinated against measles, mumps. whooping cough, and seven other dangerous childhood diseases," said Dr. Stephen R. Keener, Medical Director of the Department of Public Health.
"These diseases can cause pain, fever, rash, severe cough, hearing loss, blindness, crippling, brain damage and even death," he said. "The news is that the vaccines are safe, effective, and available at no charge at our local health departments."
Since 1993, North Carolina has provided children with immunizations against vaccine-preventable diseases at no charge through local health departments, community health centers and private doctors' offices. Some private doctors and clinics charge an administration fee.
In 1994, the federal government joined in with the Vaccines for Children program to assist states in a nationwide immunization effort.
Health officials have estimated that every dollar spent on childhood immunization saves 26 dollars later in direct and indirect medical cost. Early immunization also saves parents untold lost work time by staying home with a disease-stricken child.
Dr. Keener said that while many parents understand the need to have their children vaccinated, "some parents don't understand the critical need to vaccinate early, when it will do the most good."
The immunization schedule calls for children to receive shots at birth, 2, 4, 6, 12 and 15 months of age for protection against the following diseases: hepatitis B, diphtheria, tetanus (lockjaw), pertussis (whooping cough), Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib disease), polio, red measles, mumps, rubella (German measles) and varicella (chickenpox).
For more information about childhood immunization, and which shots your child needs at which ages, contact the Mecklenburg County Health Department 704-353-1189, your clinic or private physician's office, or dial 1-800-FOR-BABY.