The goal of any immunization program is to reduce and eliminate vaccine-preventable diseases among Ohio’s children, adolescents, and adults. It is always better to prevent a disease than to treat it after it occurs. The way we prevent disease is by getting vaccinated.

While many diseases like polio, tetanus, measles, chickenpox, mumps, and diphtheria are becoming very rare in the U.S., it is important to remember that they are becoming rare because we have been vaccinating against them. We need to keep immunizing until the disease is eliminated. A few cases of any disease could become another pandemic if we take away the protection given by vaccination. Soon we would undo the progress we have made over many years of vaccination. The United States has very low rates of vaccine-preventable diseases, but this is not true everywhere in the world. Only one disease — smallpox — has been totally erased from the planet. If we let ourselves become vulnerable by not vaccinating, a case that could touch off an outbreak of some disease that is currently under control is just a plane ride away.

We don’t vaccinate just to protect our children. We also vaccinate to protect our grandchildren and their grandchildren. Smallpox was eradicated by immunizing the population against the disease. Our children don’t have to get smallpox shots anymore because the disease no longer exists. Smallpox is now only a memory, and if we keep vaccinating against other diseases, the same will someday be true for them too. Vaccinations are one of the best ways to put an end to the serious effects of certain diseases.

Vaccination against infectious diseases remains one of the most successful health interventions in the past 100 years. The safety and effectiveness of vaccines are under constant study. The U.S. vaccine safety system ensures that all vaccines are as safe as possible. Vaccine safety is first the job of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). After the FDA determines that a vaccine candidate is safe and effective, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), reviews the data and makes recommendations to the Center for Disease Control. Anyone wanting to learn more about the process can visit the CDC’s article titled “Ensuring the Safety of the Covid-19 Vaccine in the US” at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/safety.html to read on the process of ensuring the safety of all vaccine, not just COVID-19.

Of course, the disease we know as COVID-19 is new to all of us. The worldwide population is being infected by the disease. This means that in order to eradicate the disease, a large number of people in every country need to be vaccinated. What a monumental task! We want to assure the public that we have begun vaccinating Perry County residents and are following the guidance provided by the Ohio Department of Health to ensure an orderly process.

There is no doubt that a vaccination campaign of this size is certainly larger than anything any health department has undertaken in many years. However, the process is not new to us. The Perry County Health Department has been providing vaccination to the public since 1922. While the amount of vaccine that we are receiving is very small, it is a start. We will continue to provide updates as the vaccine is received and we will continue to vaccinate as long as necessary to ensure the eradication of COVID-19. For more information and to register to receive the vaccine, visit our webpage at perrycountyhealth.info/pchdcovid/.

The Perry County Health Department is working to keep you safe where you live, work and play. Contact us at 740-342-5179, go to our webpage at perrycountyhealth.info and follow us on Facebook.

This article was submitted by Deborah Raney, director of health education for the Perry County Health Department, and a weekly contributor to The Perry CountyTribune. Views expressed may not necessarily reflect those of the newspaper.

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