Thanks to vaccines, now is the golden age for children’s health

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Stories from the pioneer and military cemetery

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From SUE HUNTER WEIR
A grandmother tends the graves of two of her grandchildren. Two-year-old Freda Aubele died on December 2, 1915. Her six-year-old sister Annie died the next day. Her wooden cross has disappeared, but family members put a new mark on her grave in 2009.
Photo credit: Aubele family

The Washington Post recently ran the headline, “Coronavirus infections decrease where people are vaccinated and rise where they aren’t.” The only reason the story was new was because it referred specifically to the novel coronavirus. We have long known that when people, especially children, are vaccinated, the number of illnesses and deaths decreases. There are several diseases that were once among the leading causes of death in young children that have been either almost or completely eradicated in the United States. Measles, mumps, rubella, polio, diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough or smallpox have not been a concern since the vaccines were introduced. We have much to thank, but the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have issued some alarming warnings about the current state of these diseases.

According to The Washington Post, the number of people dying from measles was at a 23-year high in 2019, after rising 50 percent in just three years. The number of two- to six-year-olds who received the DTaP vaccine (diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough) has decreased by 60 percent and the number of two to eight-year-olds who receive the MMR vaccine (measles, mumps, rubella) has decreased by 63 percent. receive.

How alarmed should we be? Looking back at the number of deaths from just one of the above diseases in just one of the city’s cemeteries, the answer is: very. Among the people buried in Minneapolis Pioneers and Soldiers Cemetery between 1862 and 1918, 812 died of diphtheria. 26 of them were adults; the other 786 were children. It’s an amazing number.

39 families lost more than one child to diphtheria in a matter of days or a week; Five families lost two children on the same day. Five families lost three of their members within days or weeks. The grief of these families is unimaginable.

Within 24 hours, Joseph and Madeline Aubele lost two children to diphtheria. Frida Aubele died on December 2, 1915; she wasn’t quite two and a half years old. Her sister Annie died the next day at the age of six. Martin and Martina Renlie lost their second oldest daughter, Fredricka, on July 21, 1914. Peter and Anna Hatlestad lost their 23-month-old son Theodore and their five-year-old daughter Eliza on February 10, 1888. Less than a month later, on March 6ththe, they lost two year old Tina. The list goes on and on, a grim reminder that there were no “good old days” when it came to child health.

Four of the five children of Martin and Martina Renlie. From left to right it’s Harlaug, Fredricka, Frank Olaf, and Mollie. Fredricka died of diphtheria on July 21, 1914. She was ten years old.

The COVID-19 pandemic is slowing down, but it’s far from over. More people, including children, can be vaccinated. Coronavirus vaccines are compatible with DTaP and MMR vaccines, so depending on availability in a specific location, it may be possible to protect your child from a long list of vaccine-preventable diseases and deaths during one visit. Despite the challenges of the past year and a half, it’s a good time for children’s health. Let us be grateful for that and take the opportunity to spread it.

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