When you get vaccinated against an infectious disease like mumps or measles, you are being immunized against this disease. Vaccines contain agents resembling microorganisms causing disease. However, these agents are not infectious. Instead, they are killed or weakened types of a specific microorganism that stimulate the immune system in a way that immunizes you against a disease. When you are immunized with a vaccine, you won’t get the disease even if you are exposed to someone sick with the disease.
Immunizations prevent millions of deaths every year and represent the safest, most effective strategy for reaching populations vulnerable to outbreaks of infectious diseases. In the U.S., vaccinations are provided at low to no cost to children and adults who have not been immunized for diseases still prevalent in our country. These vaccinations include:
- Measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR)
- Hepatitis A and B
- Meningococcal Group B (meningitis)
Many other vaccines are available for people who plan to travel to countries where certain diseases are endemic, or specific to that country and population. These include but are not limited to cholera, dengue fever, malaria, tuberculosis, and typhoid.
Why Should You Get Immunized?
Immunizations through FDA-approved vaccinations have virtually eliminated instances of diagnosed diseases in the U.S. There have been no cases of polio, diphtheria or smallpox reported for years and rates of other diseases affecting individuals or small populations are below one percent. When critical numbers of people comprising communities are immunized against infectious diseases, this significantly reduces the risk of all members becoming ill with the disease. Alternately, having too many people within a community fail to receive vaccines means diseases could re-emerge and sicken much of that community. In 1989, a measles outbreak occurred in the U.S. due to low vaccination rates. This outbreak involved over 55,000 reported measles cases and 136 deaths due to complications of measles.
Doesn’t Good Hygiene and Access to Clean Water Prevent Diseases?
No. Although using soap, disinfectants and clean water will slow the spread of germs, these practices won’t eliminate infectious diseases. Airborne diseases that spread from person to person via coughing, sneezing or contact with body fluids are the most difficult to eradicate within communities. In addition, viruses can live for days on dry surfaces, unlike bacteria which require moisture to thrive.
Immunizations Save Children’s Lives
Children and the elderly are most vulnerable to dying from infectious diseases. Before the development of vaccinations, hundreds of thousands of children died or were paralyzed by polio and smallpox. Although polio, smallpox and other airborne diseases are, for the most part, eliminated in the U.S., neglecting to vaccinate a child against these diseases leaves open the risk of that child contracting the disease. This is especially important today with the ability for anyone to travel rapidly to and from multiple countries that may harbor infectious diseases.
Getting Immunized Is Safe!
Conspiracy theories about vaccines causing autism or other medical problems are just that–falsehoods not based on scientific evidence. Before being approved for public use, vaccines are tested for years by FDA laboratory researchers. Side effects caused by vaccines are minor and temporary, attributed to injection site irritation and your immune system adjusting to substances in the vaccine. The Department of Health and Human Services reports that out of every one million vaccinations given to children and adults, one or two people may suffer a serious allergic reaction.
If people suddenly stopped getting immunized against infectious diseases, the world would quickly become engulfed in a global epidemic of disastrous proportions. Pregnant women would give birth to extremely ill babies, older people would have their lives cut short due to disease and hospitals would run out of resources to take care of those dying from smallpox, polio, diphtheria or malaria. Do what is best for you, your children and others in your community by making sure you have been vaccinated against infectious diseases. To learn more about the benefits of immunization or to schedule an appointment, call Brevard Health Alliance today.