Health & Fitness

Are your kids up to date on their shots?

Idaho Statesman

Choosing to immunize your child is one of the best ways to ensure they grow up healthy and reach their full potential. The diseases that immunizations prevent can lead to serious illness, hospitalization or even death.

Even so, in Idaho, only 65.9 percent of children ages 19 months to 35 months are fully up to date with recommended immunizations. There are 42 states with better childhood immunization coverage rates than Idaho.

But I am confident we can make strides as a state to increase the number of children who are fully immunized.

Although immunizing a child is an easy choice for many parents, some may feel uncomfortable or hesitant about immunizing their young ones because they have questions about the safety of vaccine ingredients. Some parents also may feel that many of the diseases prevented by immunizations are not common in the United States, and so they delay immunizations or skip parts of the recommended schedule.

Thanks to immunization practices of most families over the years, the incidence of vaccine-preventable diseases have been reduced to all-time lows in our country. While we all understand that this is a good thing, the fact that fewer people are becoming infected with vaccine-preventable diseases can lead to complacency among parents.

If you are an older parent or grandparent, you may be able to recall the days when many of the now-preventable diseases were more common. If you do remember a family member or friend who had polio, diphtheria, measles or one of the other diseases rarely seen today, it may help others who have never seen these diseases firsthand to learn about your experiences.

Choosing to not immunize a child could leave them exposed to diseases that still circulate worldwide. Although we hardly ever hear about these outbreaks in Idaho, they do happen in other parts of the country and around the world and are no farther away than a plane ride.

Documented safety

Claims that vaccines are unsafe have been proven wrong over several decades of scientific research by countless medical, government and nonprofit organizations around the world. Overwhelming findings indicate that vaccines are both safe and effective. A vaccine is tested extensively before it is approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and made available for use. Vaccines and all products regulated by the FDA undergo a thorough review of laboratory and clinical data to verify the safety, effectiveness and purity of all ingredients.

After a vaccine is in use, a comprehensive system is in place to help scientists and health professionals monitor its continued safety and effectiveness. This type of monitoring is what caused the recommendations for the flu vaccine to change this year to discourage the use of the intranasal vaccines for the upcoming flu season.

It’s not difficult to understand why parents have questions and concerns about vaccines, but I encourage parents to talk to their doctors about their concerns rather than relying on information found on the internet that may or may not be accurate and true.

Talk about importance of immunizations

Vaccines have been shown to be a safe and effective way to prevent disease. I hope that older parents and grandparents can answer questions and offer information that helps younger parents choose to immunize their children.

Our state has room for improvement when it comes to our overall childhood immunization coverage. By choosing to immunize our own children, we can make our state a healthier place for all residents.

Visit the Idaho Immunization Program’s website at for more information and schedules for people of all ages.

Elke Shaw-Tulloch, master of health sciences, is the state health officer and Division of Public Health administrator with the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. Find out more about Department of Health and Welfare services at