A spokeswoman for the Gallatin City-County Health Department recently reported on this page that Montana has the lowest rate of childhood vaccinations in the nation.

That's a troubling fact. And, while there could be a number of reasons for it, the independent streak that characterizes so many Montanans, along with some residents' distrust of government requirements of any kind, unquestionably contribute to this dangerous lapse.

And that distrust is often fueled by misinformation.

Childhood vaccinations are the best way to prevent the resurgence of any number of lethal childhood diseases. Widespread failure to vaccinate our children invites a return to the high childhood-mortality rates that plagued our grandparents' and great-grandparents' generations.

It's that simple. But false information is frightening far too many parents away from these simple - and vitally necessary - precautions.

The latest was the scare that linked vaccines to autism in children. Those who made that claim have since withdrawn it, and there is now no information out there that suggests any kind of a link between autism and childhood vaccines.

Are childhood vaccines completely without risks? Nothing is without risks, but the risks associated with the common vaccines required of children who attend schools are miniscule.

The risks of a having a significant portion of our population unimmunized, however, is considerable.

When many parents choose not to have their children vaccinated, they are not just placing their own children at risk, they are also contributing to the considerable risk that certain diseases will become widespread.

And that places infants, other unimmunized children and those with weakened immune systems at risk.

Cost should not be an issue. There is help for low-income families.

Contact the Gallatin City County Health Department for accurate information and help with ensuring your child's vaccines are up to date. They can be reached through http://www.gallatin.mt.gov/ or by calling (406) 582-3100.



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