Vaccines are arguably the most important intervention protecting public health, but they are a victim of their own success. It is easily assumed that whooping cough and chickenpox are mild. However, all children, even healthy children, are at risk of severe complications from vaccine-preventable diseases.
In our careers, we have cared for children severely ill from pertussis, varicella and measles. Pertussis (whooping cough) has increased in Maine. Infants in particular suffer significant complications, with up to 50 percent of infants with pertussis hospitalized. Infants can, and do, die from whooping cough. Likewise, varicella, or chickenpox, may be anything but a routine childhood illness. Chickenpox is associated with invasive bacterial bloodstream infections and pneumonia. It can cause swelling around the brain, leading to severe neurological deficits. Since the vaccine was introduced, hospitalizations, death rates and complications have decreased by over 90 percent.
As physicians and Mainers, we worry about these illnesses. We worry for immune-compromised children or young children who cannot receive some vaccines and rely on herd immunity to keep them safe. We worry for healthy children who can suffer severe complications.
Families trust medical professionals to guide them to decisions regarding their children’s medical care. Please trust us with vaccine-preventable illness as well. We are fortunate to live in a society where we have the means to protect all children. Please join us in voting “no” on Question 1.
Jennifer Jubulis, M.D.
The Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital, Portland