What are vaccinations?
Vaccinations (vaccines) protect your child against serious diseases by stimulating the immune system to create antibodies against certain bacteria or viruses. Most vaccinations are given as injections.
What diseases do vaccines protect against?
Vaccines protect against diseases like measles, mumps, rubella, influenza, hepatitis B, hepatitis A, polio, tetanus, whooping cough, chickenpox, rotavirus, and more. Vaccines can't protect children from minor illnesses like colds, but they can keep children safe from many serious diseases.
Why is vaccinating so important?
Disease prevention is key to public health. It is always better to prevent a disease than to treat it. Vaccines can protect both the people who receive them and those with whom they come in contact. Vaccines are responsible for the control of many infectious diseases that were once common in this country and around the world, including polio, measles, diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough), rubella (German measles), mumps, tetanus, and Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib). Vaccine eradicated smallpox, one of the most devastating diseases in history. Over the years vaccines have prevented countless cases of infectious diseases and saved literally millions of lives.
Vaccine-preventable diseases have a costly impact, resulting in doctor's visits, hospitalizations, and premature deaths. Sick children can also cause parents to lose time from work.
Are there any vaccine side-effects?
Any vaccine can cause side effects. For the most part these are minor (for example, a sore arm or low-grade fever) and go away within a few days. Listed on the CDC website (http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vac-gen/side-effects.htm) are vaccines licensed in the United States and side effects that have been associated with each of them. This information is copied directly from CDC's Vaccine Information Statements, which in turn are derived from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommendations for each vaccine.
Remember, vaccines are continually monitored for safety, and like any medication, vaccines can cause side effects. However, a decision not to immunize a child also involves risk and could put the child and others who come into contact with him or her at risk of contracting a potentially deadly disease.
What vaccines do adults need?
Adults need vaccines for all of the vaccine-preventable childhood diseases. For a list of these, visit the CDC website. Also, diseases that are especially serious for adults age 65 and older are as follows: diphtheria, herpes zoster (shingles), influenza (flu), and pneumococcal tetanus (lockjaw). More information on these diseases is also located on the CDC website.
What are some of the common misconceptions about vaccinating?
The following are six common misconceptions that appear in literature about vaccination:
- Diseases had already begun to disappear before vaccines were introduced, because of better hygiene and sanitation.
- The majority of people who get a disease have been vaccinated.
- There are "hot lots" of vaccine that have been associated with more adverse events and deaths than others.
- Vaccines cause many harmful side effects, illnesses, and even death.
- Vaccine-preventable diseases have been virtually eliminated from the United States.
- Giving a child multiple vaccinations for different diseases at the same time increases the risk of harmful side effects and can overload the immune system.
What would happen if we stopped immunizations?
In the U.S., vaccination programs have eliminated or significantly reduced many vaccine-preventable diseases. However, these diseases still exist and can once again become common—and deadly—if vaccination coverage does not continue at high levels.
How do vaccines prevent disease?
This is one of the most common concerns about vaccines. However, it's impossible to get the disease from any vaccine made with dead (killed) bacteria or viruses or just part of the bacteria or virus.
Only those immunizations made from weakened (also called attenuated) live viruses — like the chickenpox (varicella) or measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine — could possibly make a person develop a mild form of the disease, but it's almost always much less severe than the illness that occurs when someone is infected with the disease-causing virus itself.
What effect does the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) have on immunizations?
Adults 19 years and older who are enrolled in new group or individual private health plans will be eligible to receive vaccines recommended by the ACIP prior to September 2009 without any cost-sharing requirements when provided by an in-network provider as of September 23, 2010.
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis B
- Herpes Zoster
- Quadrivalent Human Papillomavirus vaccine for females
- Measles, Mumps, Rubella
- Tetanus, Diphtheria, Pertussis
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Where to find Reliable Immunization Information on the Internet
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention National Immunization Program
(800) 232-2522 (English) or (800) 232-0233 (Spanish)
Vaccine Education Center at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP)
This site provides information about childhood vaccines, including how vaccines are made, how vaccines work, and the safety of vaccines.