Health experts are increasing their efforts to get parents to have their children vaccinated.

Children without immunizations are not only vulnerable to deadly diseases, including meningitis, tetanus, rubella and mumps, but they also threaten the health of many other kids, said Dr. Bennett Kaye of Children’s Memorial Hospital.

“There are kids who can’t get vaccines for medical reasons, said Kaye, citing AIDS treatment, immune problems, chemotherapy for cancer, and organ transplants, as reasons why some children would not be candidates for vaccines.

“And these groups of kids,” he added, “are increasing in number. You’re putting all of them at risk.”

During National Infant Immunization Week, Kaye joined other community health care experts and Chicago officials last week in calling for parents to recognize the importance of child inoculation.

“History shows us when we lapse on immunizations these diseases come back,” said Kaye. “As a population, we will see a greater increase in disease and face major public health concerns if kids fail to receive proper shots.”

But health experts also warn against listening to the wrong information.

“I think the most important thing is that people need to go to reliable sources for their information,” Kaye said “There’s a lot of junk science. Start thinking about the risk of not [having your kids] immunized.

Kaye hopes the recent immunization controversy does not cause parents to delay getting their children vaccinated. He explained the importance of having children vaccinated before age 2, “because for many of these illnesses, the young age is when these kids have the highest attack rates and when they’re most susceptible.”

But despite the many pro-immunization arguments, some Chicago parents are still skeptical about getting shots for their kids.

South Side resident Mary Odom insists that if it was not required for daycare, she would not have had her daughter, 1-year-old Marquita, immunized.

“I don’t like vaccines at all,” she said. “Before [my daughter] got her shots, she was never sick. The minute I started getting her the shots, her colds started. Now she’s sick all the time.”

Kaye said, “I think [parents] should focus in very carefully on the risks of [their kids] being un-immunized, such as getting meningitis and dying or getting brain damage. I think they should go to reputable sources and not listen to everything they hear.”

There’s also a “hype” factor connected to recent media reports concerning an alleged link between vaccinations and autism. Health experts stress that no link has been proven, and that parents should be more careful who they listen to.

“There is not credible evidence that there is any link between vaccines and autism,” Kaye said. “There’s really strong, strong evidence against that theory.”

One frustrating ramification, he noted, is that children who do not get inoculated die of preventable diseases. Kaye cited two West Side teens who died of meningitis in the past month, a disease reportedly on the rise.