This year, many Allen County children will be sent home from school for a very preventable reason: They are not up to date on their vaccinations.
No pun intended, but immunizations can be a very prickly subject. Rumors persist that vaccines are unsafe (they're not), that they can lead to autism (they don't) or that they're unnecessary because the diseases they protect against are dead (they aren't). Regrettably, we cannot rewind the clock and counter the false narrative that a healthier child is an unvaccinated one. However, we can, and will, set the record straight: Simply put, vaccines save children's lives. And Super Shot is the leading provider of vaccinations to children in Allen County.
Many of the myths associated with vaccines can be traced to a long-refuted paper by Andrew Wakefield, a discredited former British doctor who falsely claimed that the measles vaccine could lead to autism in some children. His study, published in the British medical journal The Lancet, was flawed and swiftly rebuked. In the years since 1998, when his findings were first made public, more than a dozen scientific studies have convincingly demonstrated that vaccines do not cause autism and are, in fact, a necessary component of global public health safety policy.
It is rare that published scientific papers are so swiftly rebuked. The Lancet retracted its story in 2010, and Wakefield, his credibility in tatters, lost his medical license amid accusations – many by his own colleagues – that he falsified data to support his claim. The damage was already done, however, and by 2012 the UK and United States were in the full grip of “The Wakefield Effect.” Vaccination rates in both countries plummeted and have been slow to recover. Allen County is not immune: At a paltry 56 percent, it currently has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the state.
Still, facts can be stubborn things, and there is simply no denying that:
• Vaccines prevent potentially fatal diseases, such as measles, mumps, rubella, polio and whooping cough.
• Serious reactions to vaccines are extremely rare.
• Physicians agree that immunizations are one of the best things parents can do to protect their child's health.
With Indiana ranking 38th overall in public health, and 49th in public health spending – dismal numbers at best – something clearly must be done. Thankfully, something is.
Super Shot's dedicated volunteers and health care providers work together to bring vaccinations to any child who needs them (regardless of his or her parents' ability to pay). Super Shot offers four walk-in immunization clinics throughout Allen County. No appointments are needed, and all operate conveniently on weekends and after school. Clinics are located on bus routes or in strategic neighborhoods.
While wait times are kept to a minimum, any time spent protecting our children through immunizations is a small investment with dramatic returns in our children's health.
For 25 years Super Shot has been breaking down barriers of vaccinations – barriers of access and cost – and along the way improving the health of our community. The 600,000 vaccinations provided to more than 200,000 Allen County children – at a personal savings to Hoosier families of more than $2.5 million a year – remind us that Super Shot's healing mission is as relevant today as it was in 1993.
Greg Perigo is director of strategic partnerships with Indiana Tech and a board member of Super Shot, Inc.