VACCINES AND IMMUNIZATIONS SAVE LIVES
Written by: Laolu Lediju, MD, MPH, Family Practice Physician at Western Wisconsin Health
August is Immunization month, and this provides a great opportunity to discuss the importance of staying up to date on vaccines/immunizations.
Vaccines are very important for the prevention of diseases and help control outbreaks of diseases. We are exposed to different micro-organisms in our environment, such as viruses, bacteria, and other microbes. These micro-organisms can cause deadly diseases. Vaccines help us to reduce the risk of getting diseases from micro-organisms by working with our body’s natural defenses/immune system to build protection against diseases and protect us from falling ill. Vaccines help our immune system fight infections faster and more effectively and provide long-lasting immunity to deadly diseases.
Vaccines prevent up to 5 million deaths worldwide every year from diseases like diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, measles, and influenza. Vaccines have helped to eradicate diseases such as smallpox and polio. Vaccines have also helped to reduce COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths. Types of recommended vaccines/immunizations include:
- Vaccines protecting children such as DTaP (protects against diphtheria, tetanus, and whooping cough); Hepatitis B and MMR vaccine (protects against measles, mumps, and rubella)
- Vaccines protecting teenagers and adolescents such as meningococcal vaccine which protects against meningitis and HPV vaccine which protects against cervical cancer in females
- Vaccines protecting adults and elderly such as COVID-19 vaccine, pneumococcal vaccine which protects against pneumonia and Shingles vaccine
Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, vaccine coverage has dropped since 2020, largely due to COVID-19 associated disruptions in health systems. Globally, we had 25 million children missing out on immunizations in 2021 and this is the lowest immunization rate since 2009. Low immunization rates can lead to disease outbreaks and put vulnerable individuals and communities at risk. According to the CDC, there have been evidence of increased outbreaks of measles and whooping cough in areas with low immunization rates for measles and DTaP vaccines. This underscores the importance of vaccines and the need to stay up to date on immunizations. The importance of staying up to date on immunizations include:
- Vaccines can save you and your child’s life. Staying up to date on immunizations is the best way to keep yourself, your children and family safe and healthy
- Vaccines protect others you care about such as the elderly, immunocompromised persons, and other community members. When the majority in a community get immunized against a disease, this reduces the spread of the disease in that community. This is called community/herd immunity.
- Vaccines can save your family time and money from missed days at work/school due to illness as well as healthcare costs of treating vaccine-preventable diseases which could result in prolonged disabilities and deaths.
- Vaccines can protect future generations. Immunization against rubella virus (German measles) has reduced the risk of pregnant women passing this virus on to newborns and this has decreased the risk of birth defects associated with the rubella virus.
- Vaccines are safe and effective. Every vaccine goes through rigorous lab tests and clinical trials to ensure its safety and efficacy before approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Most people don’t have any serious side effects from vaccines. Mild side effects such as arm soreness, mild fever/chills can occur, and these usually resolve quickly.
Do childhood vaccines cause autism? No. Vaccines do not cause autism. Many research studies have shown that there is no link between vaccines and autism.
Immunization is one of the most successful public health interventions and a major pillar for preventative medicine for a healthier society. We all want the best for our children, families, and communities. One of the best ways to protect our children, families and communities is to make sure that everyone is up to date on their immunizations. Most health insurance plans cover 100% of the cost of vaccines. As such, there is no additional costs for getting routine vaccines and staying up to date on immunizations. If your family does not have health insurance, your child may be able to get recommended vaccines at no cost to you through the Vaccines for Children (VFC) program which is a federally funded program. Immunizations are usually done during routine well child checks or adult annual physical exams. However, immunizations could be given at any time or during clinic/hospital visits for other conditions. You can discuss with your healthcare provider regarding your immunization status and schedule for routine or catch-up immunizations at any time.
Remember, immunizations save lives, and we all need to stay up to date on immunizations to protect ourselves, our families, and communities!
To schedule an appointment with Dr. Lediju or any other provider at Western Wisconsin Health please call 715-684-1111. Western Wisconsin Health building a healthier tomorrow, together.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP)
- U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
- World Health Organization
- American Academy of Pediatrics
- American Academy of Family Physicians