Vaccines have been proven to save lives and prevent sickness in people for decades, but thousands of Americans forgo immunizations and miss the protection they offer.
Diseases that can be prevented by vaccines are at record lows, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, many people, especially children, are “under-immunized,” creating the potential for an outbreak. Many adults are also behind on their shots, leaving them vulnerable to illness.
The CDC offers five reasons to get vaccinated:
- Vaccines can (and do) save lives
- Vaccines are safe and effective
- Immunization protects others you care about (and those who cannot receive vaccines)
- Immunizations can save your family time and money
- Vaccination protects future generations
Are Vaccines Safe?
There is a lot of information floating around on the Internet linking vaccines to autism, so some people are questioning whether vaccines are worth the risk.
The CDC, along with a number of national agencies, cites numerous studies that show absolutely no link between vaccines and autism. The preservative thimerosal was once used in vaccines, and that was the main concern of parents, but now it has been removed from all standard childhood immunizations. Some influenza vaccines still have it, but a thimerosal-free version is available.
Dr. Adam Ebreo, pediatrician with Advocate Medical Group in Bloomington, Ill., says, in most people, the risks of not vaccinating far outweigh any potential risks of vaccines – especially whooping cough, which is becoming more and more common.
“Physicians see firsthand the dangers of what pertussis (whooping cough), in particular, can do to newborns and young children,” Dr. Ebreo says. “I believe vaccinating our children is essential to keeping them safe.”
His advice for concerned parents?
“Learn as much as you can about the vaccines available, and don’t be afraid to talk to your child’s physician about any concerns you have,” Dr. Ebreo says. “There’s so much misinformation on the Internet, that it’s easy to become confused about the true risks and benefits.”
When to Vaccinate
Many people think of vaccines as a childhood thing, but there are a number of vaccines health professionals recommend from childhood through adulthood.
Some of these vaccines are:
- Influenza (flu) vaccine – Most people should receive this vaccine every year
- Herpes Zoster (Shingles) vaccine – This vaccine helps prevent outbreaks of Shingles, a very painful disease caused by the same virus that causes chicken pox
- Whooping cough (pertussis)
- Meningococcal (meningitis)
- Pneumococcal (pneumonia)
- Hepatitis A & B
There are other vaccine recommendations depending on a person’s age, overall health and immunization history. The CDC’s website provides information about who should get what immunizations and when:
- Children (ages birth to 6 years old)
- Preteens and teens (7 to 18 years old)
- Adults (19 years old and older) – This includes recommendations for college students and active duty military personnel
- Pregnant women
People may also want to take this immunization quiz to find out which immunizations they may need.
Vaccines for International Travelers
For those who travel outside of the country, there are a number of vaccines and preventive medications they may want to consider. Experts recommend making an appointment with a doctor who specializes in travel medicine.
Who Should Not be Vaccinated
Most people should be vaccinated, according to the CDC’s immunization schedule. However, there are some people who should not receive vaccines or should delay receiving them.
For example, people who have had life-threatening allergic reactions to previous vaccines or vaccine components and people with compromised immune systems should probably not receive most vaccines.
The CDC has compiled a list of vaccines and their contraindications for you and your health care provider.
People with questions about whether or not vaccines are safe should talk with their doctor.