(WISE, Va.) -- During National Immunization Awareness Month in August, the LENOWISCO Health District encourages people of all ages to make sure they are up to date on recommended vaccines. Immunization schedules for all stages of life may be found on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website at www.cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules/.
Vaccines play an important role in preventing serious, sometimes deadly, diseases. Immunization is a shared responsibility. Families, healthcare professionals and public health officials must work together to help protect the entire community.
Vaccines protect against serious diseases. Vaccines are among the most successful and cost-effective public health tools available for preventing disease and death. In the U.S., vaccines have greatly reduced infectious diseases that once routinely killed or harmed many infants, children and adults. However, the viruses and bacteria that cause vaccine-preventable disease and death still exist and can be passed on to people who are not protected by vaccines.
Among children born between 1994 and 2013, vaccination will prevent an estimated 322 million illnesses, 21 million hospitalizations and 732,000 deaths over the course of their lifetimes. Vaccination not only protects the person receiving the vaccine, but also helps prevent the spread of certain diseases, especially to those that are most vulnerable to serious complications, such as infants, young children, the elderly and those with chronic conditions and weakened immune systems.
These diseases still exist and outbreaks do occur. Many vaccine preventable diseases are still common in many parts of the world. For example, measles can be brought into the U.S. by unvaccinated travelers who are infected while in other countries. When measles gets into communities of unvaccinated people (such as people who refuse vaccines for religious, philosophical or personal reasons), outbreaks are more likely to occur. The current measles outbreak illustrates how quickly infectious diseases can spread when they reach groups of people who are not vaccinated.
From January 1 to July 25, 2019, 1,164 individual cases of measles have been confirmed in 30 states. This is the greatest number of cases reported in the U.S. since 1992 and since measles was declared eliminated in 2000. Outbreaks of whooping cough have also occurred in the U.S. over the past few years.
Vaccines are recommended throughout our lives. Vaccines are not just for children. Vaccines are recommended throughout our lives based on age, lifestyle, occupation, travel destinations, medical conditions and vaccines received in the past. Certain factors (such as health conditions) may put you at higher risk for getting some diseases or having more serious illness if you were to get sick. Any of these diseases could be serious – even if you are healthy.
Vaccines are very safe. Vaccines are thoroughly tested before licensing and carefully monitored even after they are licensed to ensure that they are very safe. Side effects from vaccines are usually mild and temporary. Some people may have allergic reactions to certain vaccines, but serious and long-term side effects are rare.
Talk to your health care professional to make sure your family is up to date on all the recommended vaccines. Back-to-school appointments are a perfect to make sure your children are up to date on all recommended vaccines. Requirements for entry into public schools in Virginia are available at www.vdh.virginia.gov/immunization/requirements/.
Because vaccines are not just for kids, you can take CDC’s Adult Vaccine Quiz (www2a.cdc.gov/nip/adultimmsched/) to find out which vaccines may be recommended for you. Take the printout to discuss with your doctor.
For more information about the importance of immunization, contact Melissa Freeman, LENOWISCO Health District immunization nurse coordinator, at 276-328-1921.