Timely immunizations keep everyone fit, healthy

Maj. Marina Johnston

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the incidence of vaccine-preventable childhood diseases has dramatically declined in the United States since the initiation of large-scale vaccination programs. But despite the successes, nearly 48,000 adults die yearly from diseases that can be prevented by immunizations.
Immunizing children not only protects them from acquiring a disease, but protects those around them. While there are some children who cannot receive vaccines because of medical reasons, and others may not develop immunity from certain vaccines, if enough children go un-immunized, these diseases could again become epidemics. With a high vaccination rate over time more diseases could be eradicated.
Vaccines are safe and effective. Side effects such as fever or soreness at the injection site are typically mild and transient, and allergic reactions are rare. All vaccines go through rigorous testing before being licensed by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) and are constantly monitored by the FDA and the CDC.

Ensuring children receive their shots in a timely manner is important to vaccine effectiveness. Immunizations are scheduled every two to six months until the child is 18 months old, with more due when entering school. Additionally, adolescents need to be immunized with the meningococcal vaccine before starting college. Parents who choose not to immunize their child should first consult their healthcare provider.

It’s not just children who need immunizations, but adults need to continue vaccinations to prevent serious illness or death. Immunity, whether from vaccines or recovery from the disease itself, often wanes over time. Booster shots continue protection against life-threatening diseases such as tetanus. As the current nationwide spike in pertussis (whooping cough) cases demonstrates, adults may lose their immunity to “childhood” diseases over time and subsequently require measles, mumps and rubella (MMR), pertussis (Tdap) or other vaccines.

Risk factors may also drive the need for vaccinations. For example, influenza vaccines are strongly recommended for anyone with a chronic health condition, who is pregnant, is six to 23 months of age or 65 years or older. Similarly, hepatitis A vaccine should be given to individuals traveling to high-risk areas. Military personnel require multiple vaccinations, including influenza, hepatitis A and others because of deployments.
New vaccines are constantly being developed. Though not yet available, the CDC recently gave it’s “green light” to a newly FDA-approved vaccine for protection against human papillomavirus (HPV) in females nine to 26 years old. HPV causes the majority of cervical cancer and genital warts.
Immunizations play a major role in preventing the spread of serious diseases.

For more information on vaccines and vaccine-preventable diseases, visit the CDC Web site at www.cdc.gov or call at 1-(800)-CDC-INFO.
For information locally about one’s vaccination status, contact the Immunization Clinic at 784-4040.