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AAP Encourages Parents to Immunize Their Children

CHICAGO, April 18 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) highlights the importance and success of childhood vaccines during National Infant Immunization Week, April 19-26. Vaccines have eliminated or reduced many of the most devastating childhood illnesses and are a critical component of the nation's public health efforts.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, before immunization:

-- Over 13,000 people in the U.S. contracted paralytic polio each year. Thousands of children were left in crutches, braces, wheelchairs and iron lungs.

-- 450 people died each year in the U.S. from measles, one of the most infectious diseases in the world.

-- 600 American children died each year of Hib meningitis. Hundreds more were left with deafness, seizures or mental retardation.

-- 9,000 people - mostly children - died of pertussis, or whooping cough, in the U.S every year. Many infants who survived suffered permanent brain damage.

-- 6,100 people in the U.S. died of invasive pneumococcal disease each year. Many children developed long-term complications such as deafness or seizures.

-- An estimated 20,000 infants born to infected mothers during a rubella epidemic in 1964-65 contracted congenital rubella syndrome, an illness whose symptoms include deafness, blindness and mental retardation.

-- 1,314 people contracted tetanus annually; one-fifth died of the infection. Tetanus bacteria live in the soil and are resistant to germ-killing cleaners.

Vaccines are the first and best line of defense to protect the infants and children who are most vulnerable to these deadly viruses and bacteria. While many young parents today have never witnessed a case of polio, measles or rubella, these diseases still circulate in the world and would return to the U.S. if immunization rates were to fall. Outbreaks of measles and whooping cough in the U.S. in recent years show how quickly and easily these diseases can spread among unvaccinated populations.

"Immunizing their child is the single best thing parents can do to ensure their child's health," said Renee R. Jenkins, MD, FAAP, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics. "The benefits of vaccines far outweigh the risks. I firmly believe in the importance and safety of vaccines, as a doctor, as a parent and as a new grandparent."

Experts in infectious diseases designed the vaccine schedule to protect infants, children and adolescents when they are most susceptible to infection with specific diseases. Parents who have questions about vaccines should talk with their pediatrician. More information about vaccines is available at or

The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 60,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults. Learn more at

SOURCE American Academy of Pediatrics
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