Immunizations prevent disease and save lives. The facts are irrefutable: According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the vaccination of children born between 1994 and 2013 prevented 332 million illnesses (more than the current population of the entire U.S.) and saved an estimated 732,000 lives. Along with antibiotics, germ theory, imaging and sanitation, vaccines are considered by physicians and scientists to be one of the greatest medical breakthroughs of the last 180 years.
A program of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), National Immunization Awareness Month is held each August to highlight the importance of vaccination for people of all ages.
Vaccines use very small amounts of antigens— parts of germs that stimulate the body’s immune response—to recognize and learn to fight serious diseases. Thanks to scientific advances, today’s vaccines protect individuals from more disease using fewer antigens: Thirty years ago, vaccines used 3,000 antigens to protect against 8 diseases by age 2; today, vaccines use 305 antigens to protect against 14 diseases by age 2.
What about vaccine safety?
Data show the current U.S. vaccine supply is the safest in history, and there has never been a single credible study linking vaccines to long-term health conditions. For example, according to the CDC, studies have shown that there is no link between the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism, and recently released results of a Danish study, which analyzed data collected from 657,461 children born in Denmark between 1999 and 2010, also found no evidence that the vaccine increases the risk of autism.
As for immediate danger from vaccines, in the form of allergic reactions or severe side effects, the incidence of death is so rare it can’t even truly be calculated. When side effects do occur, they are usually very mild and can include a low-grade fever, rash, or soreness or swelling at the injection site.
Who should get immunized?
Babies and children: On-time vaccination throughout childhood is essential because it helps provide immunity before children are exposed to potentially life-threatening diseases. For age-specific vaccine information from birth through 18 years, visit www.cdc. gov/vaccines/parents/by-age.
Adults: Adults 19 years of age and older need to keep their vaccinations up to date because immunity from childhood vaccines can wear off over time. Most adults need a yearly influenza shot and a Td (tetanus, diphtheria) booster every 10 years. Other vaccines may be needed based on age, health conditions, job, lifestyle or travel habits.
Southcentral Foundation (SCF) offers health and wellness services, including vaccines throughout all stages of life, for Alaska Native and American Indian people living in the Cook Inlet region of Alaska. For information or to schedule an appointment, visit www.southcentralfoundation.com or call (907) 729-4955 / (800) 478-3343.