Because people need vaccines throughout their lives, from infancy to old age, there is a lot of ground to cover. There are five Wednesdays this August, so we will take this time to review who needs which vaccines and when. Next week, we'll go over which vaccines students need before returning to school.
Adolescents and teenagers need many vaccines to protect against serious and fatal diseases like polio. Adults need to stay up-to-date on boosters and some other vaccines to protect them from illnesses such as shingles and pneumonia. Women need to be up-to-date on their vaccines, especially if they plan on becoming pregnant. And anyone who will be coming into close contact with a young baby should get a Tdap vaccine to protect against pertussis, or whooping cough.
Because of vaccines, children are protected against 14 major diseases by the time they are 2. Many of these diseases have been nearly eliminated in the United States thanks to vaccines, which are rigorously tested and monitored for side effects.
However, anyone who is unvaccinated against serious diseases like mumps, polio or measles still can contract them. So, it is very important that children are immunized as soon as possible. In West Virginia, it is estimated that more than one-third of children between 19 and 35 months old do not have all their necessary vaccinations. This is in spite of the fact that West Virginia is one of only three states that does not allow parents to skip on vaccinations for their kids because of personal belief if they plan to enroll their children in public school.
As people get older, they tend to forget about the importance of vaccines. Many adults end up skipping out on getting their yearly flu vaccine, as well as their Tdap boosters. Not everyone realizes that some vaccines are only effective for so many years. They figure that because they got them as a child, they won’t need to worry about it again. Other people decide not to get them because they assume that harmful diseases vaccines protect against aren’t as prevalent anymore.
But according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there have been more than 200 cases of measles in the United States in the past two years. While measles isn’t very common in the U.S., it is still in other countries. Travelers who are unvaccinated can catch measles and inadvertently bring it back to their communities back home. If that community happens to be one where many people are unvaccinated, then the disease can spread like wildfire.
So, getting your vaccines is very important, even if you don’t think there’s a good chance you’ll run into any serious diseases. Another good reason to stay up-to-date on vaccinations is the concept of herd immunity. The more people that become vaccinated, the less a disease can spread. This is especially important for some people who are unable to get vaccines, such as those with allergies to them.
For instance, many adults skip out on the flu vaccine and because of this, many more people can get sick. The flu causes between 140,000 and 710,000 hospitalizations every year, as well as between 12,000 and 56,000 deaths every year. Those who can’t get the flu vaccine for health reasons depend on others to get it so the spread of the virus is lessened.
There are also many misconceptions about the flu vaccine. Every year some people will complain that they still got the flu, despite getting the vaccine. This is because the flu vaccine has a different success rate every year depending on the strain. Because of this, many people will skip next year’s flu vaccine, thinking that they don’t work. But if you get the flu vaccine, the chance of coming down with influenza is reduced significantly.
All in all, vaccines are an important aspect throughout life, but many people will forget about staying up-to-date on them as they get older. It’s important to get vaccinated from a variety of illnesses in all stages of life.