By DOUGLAS O'BRIEN
Pockets of our country are experiencing a significant uptick in the number of measles cases.
Measles is not a harmless childhood illness. It is actually a highly contagious, dangerous disease that can even be deadly.
But measles is also easily preventable with a vaccine.
There's a lot of misinformation swirling around, so let me provide the facts: Vaccines save lives. Vaccines protect our children from debilitating and deadly disease, and they promote the overall health of our communities.
Vaccines are safe and highly effective. Large studies undertaken over the years have confirmed their safety again and again.
Vaccines do not cause autism and do not contain toxic chemicals. Any serious side effects from vaccines are exceedingly rare, and the protection from disease that vaccines provide far outweighs any potential risks.
If you're a parent, talk to your child's doctor to make sure your child is up to date on all of his or her scheduled vaccinations. This is especially important if you have an infant, because vaccinating your baby on the recommended immunization schedule provides protection against 14 serious childhood illnesses.
For measles, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that children get two doses of the MMR vaccine, starting with the first dose at 12 to 15 months of age and the second dose at 4 through 6 years of age.
If you're an adult, check with your doctor about whether you're up to date on your vaccines, too.
We all want our children to grow up in a world that is free from preventable diseases. The single most important thing each of us can do to achieve that goal is to get fully vaccinated — for ourselves, our families and our communities.
You can find out more about the measles vaccine and other vaccines at vaccines.gov.
Based in Chicago, Douglas O'Brien is a regional director of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.