The American Academy of Pediatrics issued an alert last week that identified several more cases of invasive HIB disease in Pennsylvania and two deaths. One of the deaths occurred in an unimmunized child. Several months ago there were five cases of HIB disease in Minnesota, again resulting in one death, also in an unimmunized child. All of the cases involved unvaccinated or under-vaccinated children.
Prior to routine vaccination against HIB (H. flu) disease, which began in 1988, about 20,000 children developed infections each year, and 12,000 cases of HIB meningitis were diagnosed, with about five percent of children dying. Over the last 20 years the rates of HIB disease have decreased exponentially and deaths were no longer reported. The vaccine was a tremendous victory in preventing childhood meningitis and other serious infections.
Over the last several years with parental anxiety related to vaccines, the number of unvaccinated children has been on the rise, especially in “pockets” throughout the country. At the same time, there has been a HIB vaccine shortage since December of 2007, which may have also resulted in children not completing their primary series at 2, 4, and 6 months of age. These two factors may have led to the cases of HIB disease and doctors are worried that we may see a recurrence of HIB disease and deaths. The community as a whole is often protected due to “herd immunity” and the herd must be immunized to provide maximum protection for everyone.
This underscores the importance in vaccinating your children. If your child has missed any of their primary vaccine series, now is the time to update them. HIB disease is serious and unfortunately may be on the rise again. This is a vaccine preventable disease.
That’s your daily dose, we’ll chat again soon.