Editorial: Immunization rate decline for Hoosier kids concerning

Jeffersonville News and Tribune

The politicization of COVID-19 has caused too many to question vaccinations, but does anyone really doubt the seriousness of diseases such as polio, measles and hepatitis?

Despite medical advances that have largely taken the punch out of what were once life-changing if not deadly diseases, too many parents are taking chances with their children’s well-being. An Indiana Capital Chronicle story highlighted the warnings of the Indiana Department of Health that only 58% of Hoosier children aged 19-35 months have completed the 4:3:1:3:3:1:4 immunization series.

That’s a drop of 12 percentage points in two years.

This series of shots protects children against chickenpox, measles, hepatitis and polio. The well-being of some of the most vulnerable among us — children — is being risked despite decades of proven vaccine efficiency and advancement.

It’s an astounding and depressing fact considering how many lives have been saved through vaccinations. Until the mid-1900s, polio was a devastating disease in our country. Thousands of children were infected every year, with many dying or left paralyzed. Widespread vaccinations all but eradicated the disease, but a confirmed case in New York has experts worried that polio could make a comeback.

There is no reason for that to happen. Just like with COVID-19, we have protection.

Polio vaccines have been shown to be safe and effective. Like all states, Indiana has requirements for children to receive vaccinations before entering public school. As of Aug. 31, 81.5% of Hoosier kindergartners had received their required vaccinations, according to the Indiana Department of Health. The percentage drops to 73.9% for sixth grade and 65.7% for 12th grade students.

Those numbers just aren’t good enough, but sadly they’re not surprising given Indiana’s sluggish response to the COVID-19 vaccines.

It’s incumbent upon parents and guardians to get their children immunized. School systems should also work closely with local health departments to encourage vaccinations and to dispel myths about immunization.

Resources are available for parents who want more information about vaccinations, or for those who may need financial assistance. Indiana participates in the federal Vaccines for Children program, which provides no-cost immunizations for qualifying households. More information on immunizations and the free federal program is available on the health department’s website, in.gov/health.

Our nation overcame the horrors of polio because people came together for the common good. They saw how deadly polio could be, and they accepted vaccinations as a highly effective way to fight the disease.

Let history and facts be our guide. Not paranoia, misinformation and lies.

Children under the age of 3 can’t make many decisions for themselves. Adults should and must know better.