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Childhood diseases still threaten

According to the Minnesota Department of Health, a 19-month-old Hennepin County child was confirmed to be infected with the measles virus late last week. It was the first such case to be reported in the state this year.

Whooping cough has also reared its ugly head in Minnesota in recent years. What’s next, polio?

The reappearance of such long-fought childhood illnesses fits in perfectly with National Infant Immunization Week, April 26-May 3.

A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows the value of childhood immunizations.

Every dollar spent on routine childhood immunization, on average, results in $10 in direct and indirect savings to society over the child’s lifetime, according to the CDC study published in the journal Pediatrics in March.

The study, which evaluated the economic impact of the 2009 U.S. childhood immunization schedule, estimated that routine immunization of children born during that year will prevent approximately 42,000 early deaths and 20 million cases of disease.

The upshot of the study? Protecting children through recommended vaccines not only prevents disease and death, but also results in a net savings of about $69 billion to society as a whole.

The CDC analysis included nine vaccines (not including the flu shot) routinely recommended to be given in the first two years of a child’s life.

The costs of immunizing children were compared with direct and indirect costs that might arise from not being vaccinated and the savings derived from avoiding disease and death through vaccination.

Of course, the cold hard economics of childhood vaccinations are just one way to look at it.

The real value of immunizing infants and children can be measured in happy kids and families — it can be measured in the illness, death and suffering that didn’t happen because those diseases were thwarted in their attack.

Making sure every child in the state can be protected from diseases through immunizations is a main goal of state and local public health agencies throughout Minnesota.

Fortunately for everybody, the vast majority of parents locally and statewide fully vaccinate their children.

For example, 9 out of 10 Minnesota families vaccinate their children against measles, mumps and rubella before the baby turns two years old.

A 2011 national study found that more than 93 percent of parents with at least one child 6 years or younger fully vaccinated their child.

Parents can help maintain those high vaccination rates by making sure their young ones get all recommended shots on time, every time.

Once-common childhood diseases are rarely seen in the U.S. today because of the success of immunizations.

But many of those diseases are still common overseas and are just a plane ride away.

Money should never be an excuse: The federally-funded Minnesota Vaccines for Children program provides free or low-cost shots to children who don’t have insurance or whose insurance does not cover the cost of vaccines.