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Mulroe: immunization awareness critical to Illinois

immuniz monthSPRINGFIELD – August is National Immunization Awareness month and hospitals all over the state are urging patients to become more aware of the benefits of vaccinations. Without vaccinations, preventable diseases such as pertussis or measles can often spread unchecked, causing serious health issues and even death.

Earlier this year, a measles outbreak at a day care center in Palatine ultimately effected 41 children. Currently, Illinois has a vaccination rate among school children of 97%. A recent outbreak of meningitis has caused a stir in the Chicago area, leading many residents to obtain the vaccination.

The mumps has been the most recent preventable disease that has seen an outbreak recently across Illinois. Since April, 60 cases of mumps have been reported in Champaign County alone, with another 13 cases reported that may or may not be related.

In response to the outbreak on the University of Illinois campus, health departments across the states are offering free inoculation via the MMR vaccine. One dose of the serum has been proven to aid prevention of measles, mumps and rubella, the diseases from which the vaccine takes its name. It can, however, take up to two weeks to gain the full immunity offered by the vaccine.

Recently, the General Assembly has taken steps to address what many see as a vaccination issue. This spring, the Illinois State Senate passed SB1410, introduced and sponsored by Senator John G. Mulroe (D-Chicago). The proposal tightens exemption allowances for vaccinations and became law Monday, August 3.

“I have four children of my own who benefitted from being vaccinated,” Mulroe said. “After many discussions with parents who believe their children were injured by a vaccine, however, I am trying to address concerns that vaccines may be harmful to certain children. I would never want to be responsible for harming a child. This is a public safety issue. I want to make sure that all children and the public are safe.”

Critics against vaccinations have proven to be a largely vocal opposition group, often times citing inaccurate studies linking the ingredients of vaccines to cognitive disorders such as autism, a link that has repeatedly been debunked and refuted by experts. Vaccines can cause side effects, the most common being low grade fever and soreness around the area where the vaccine was administered.

Others still oppose vaccinating themselves or their families due to religious beliefs. Legislators held numerous meetings with concerned citizens on both sides of the issue to come up with the final language of the measure signed by the governor. Senator Mulroe, for his part, stresses that ensuring people became educated about the benefits of vaccinations and the dangers not vaccinating can cause to others was paramount to his sponsorship of SB1410.

“The religious and personal freedoms to not vaccinate are an unalienable right, but we wanted to make sure that even if you choose not to vaccinate, at the very least you are informed about the benefits and dangers,” Mulroe said. “The key to this legislation and the discussions that surrounded it has been about balancing individual religious freedom with public safety. That has been goal number one.”