WHEELING - When parents ask nurse Becky Beckett about the importance of vaccines for their children, she pulls out an old photo of children lined up for blocks waiting to receive their polio vaccine during the 1950s.
"Parents knew what the disease was like," Beckett said of the adults at that time who watched other children become sickened or crippled by the disease.
"Since vaccines have been put into use, life expectancy has increased 30 years and death from infectious disease has decreased 14-fold," she added.
File Photo by Scott McCloskey
Health officials urge parents to make sure their children receive vaccinations that prevent many diseases including polio.
Children typically start receiving vaccinations at 6 months old. Beckett, nursing supervisor at the Wheeling-Ohio County Health Department, said parents bring their children in on a regular basis to receive vaccines recommended to prevent disease. In West Virginia, state law requires children entering school to be up-to-date on their vaccinations.
For example, West Virginia school children must be immunized against diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, polio, measles, mumps, rubella, varicella and hepatitis B unless properly medically exempted.
And before starting this school year, seventh-graders and 12th-graders must receive at least one dose of Tdap, which is tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis, and one dose of MCV, which is for meningococcal.
Beckett noted one reason some parents may get lax in getting their children vaccinated is because they did not experience a time when people were dying from such diseases.
"We're victims of our own success. People don't remember a time when kids were sick and dying (from these diseases). The germs are still in the environment," she said.
Globally, she noted, there have been outbreaks of pertussis and measles in the past few years. And in the United States there have been outbreaks of pertussis, also known as whooping cough.
She noted the more people who receive vaccines, the better protected the entire population will be. That protection is known as herd immunity, she said.