As the temperatures continue to drop, it's a sure sign that the worst of flu season is coming up fast. Upstate Golisano Children's Hospital is partnering with the Salvation Army to offer free flu and whooping cough vaccinations to families at the annual Christmas Bureau registration. Officials say these and other vaccinations are important. As our Katie Gibas reports, according to a new study, they've prevented 100 million infections in the United States in the last century.
SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- If you got your flu shot, you probably didn't think much about it. A small prick and then you're on your way. Vaccines, like the flu shot, are often taken for granted.
"Vaccines are clearly identified as the number one public health achievement in the current century, hands down. Nothing else trumps vaccines, even recognizing cigarette smoking as a health hazard," said Dr. Joe Domachowske, an Upstate Golisano Children's Hospital Pediatric Infectious Disease Specialist.
Researchers out of the University of Pittsburgh found that vaccines prevented more than 100 million infections in the U.S. during the last 80 years. They analyzed public health reports dating back to the 1800s and focused on the most common infections in history: Smallpox, measles, mumps, rubella, polio, Hepatitis A, Diphtheria and Pertussis.
"All of these infections were so very common and people were often losing their children to infectious diseases that now, in 2013, we can completely prevent. One out of five kids died in the 1920s from a vaccine-preventable infection before their fifth birthday," said Domachowske.
But the study also found infection rates increasing due to the resurgence of the anti-vaccine movement. For example, doctors have seen a rise in Pertussis or whooping cough cases. Last year was the most cases since the 1950s.
"Our vaccination rates in this community are lower than where they are nationwide and a lot of reasons for that is access to medical care, trying to get time off from work, take kids out of school to try to get to the doctor's office," said Dr. Manika Suryadevara, an Upstate Golisano Children's Hospital Pediatric Infectious Disease Specialist.
Experts say continued education will be the key to increasing vaccination rates and preventing another 100 million infections.
"One of the most important things that we need to do is to focus on education of the families. People really need to understand why we're vaccinating, what we're trying to prevent with vaccinating, how it's not going to help just them, but it's going to help the community and their families," said Suryadevara.
Doctors say those who can need to get vaccinated to protect the vulnerable in our community who can't.
For more information about the study, head to tycho.pitt.edu.