For over 50 years, vaccinations have saved more than a billion lives and prevented thousands of illnesses and disabilities in the United States. In fact, many vaccine-preventable diseases are at an all time low because more people are being vaccinated. Contrary to popular belief, vaccination is safe and effective. Each vaccine goes through a long and thorough review by scientists, doctors and the federal government to ensure their safety.
Vaccination protects those you care about. The best way to make sure your children are healthy and protected from preventable disease is to get their recommended vaccinations on schedule. Not doing so could lead to consequences such as amputation of an arm or leg, limb paralysis, hearing loss, seizures, brain damage and death.
Some vaccine-preventable diseases are still a threat, such as measles, mumps and whooping cough, which continue to infect children due to under- or lack of immunization in communities. Some diseases are common in other countries and are brought to the United States by travelers. Outbreaks of preventable diseases occur when parents decide not to vaccinate their children. Unvaccinated children can spread disease to babies who are too young to be vaccinated, to grandparents or to people with weakened immune systems, such as transplant recipients and cancer patients. We all have a public health commitment to our communities to protect ourselves and each other by getting recommended vaccinations.
Healthy adults are often unaware that they should be seeking vaccination, because they think that vaccines are for children, senior citizens and those in poor health. The protection conferred by childhood vaccines may not last as we grow older and booster vaccinations may be needed. Adults may be at risk for other diseases due to their occupation, lifestyle, or acquired health conditions.
All adults need an annual influenza vaccine and a Tdap (tetanus, diptheria and acellular pertussis) vaccine booster injection every ten years. Other adult vaccines include the shingles, pneumococcal, meningococcal, MMR (measles, mumps and rubella), human papillomavirus (HPV), varicella (chickenpox), hepatitis A and B vaccines.
Covid-19 vaccines are currently under development and some are undergoing phase 3 trials. Once they become available, be sure to vaccinate yourself and your loved ones and promote vaccination against this disease to your friends and co-workers. Only through an all-out effort, can we control this disease and resume our usual activities.
Besides preventing unnecessary illness, vaccines help to avoid days off work, doctor visits, hospital stays and subsequent monetary losses. For instance, being sick with the flu can last up to 15 days and cause an average of 6 days of lost work. Adults with hepatitis A can be off the job for up to a month. Most adult vaccines are covered by private insurance and/or Medicare. Insurance coverage through Healthcare.gov is another option. Some doctors’ offices give vaccines or can refer you to a local pharmacy or community health department for vaccination.
There are many sources of information about recommended vaccines and vaccine safety. These websites are a good place to start:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists (ACOG)
Immunization Action Coalition (IAC)/Vaccine Information You Need
National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID)
Vaccination is a public health commitment that we all share. We all should pursue a healthy lifestyle and good health. Unlike voting, which is a privilege we can’t attain until the age of eighteen, vaccination and disease prevention begins prior to and after birth. Jump on the bandwagon and protect your fellow citizens.
Louise Wilkinson, D.O received a B.S. in Biological Sciences from Loyola University in New Orleans in 1980 and a Doctor of Osteopathy degree from Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine in Kirksville, MO in 1984. She practiced in family and primarily emergency medicine for 30 years before retiring in 2015. Louise is a member of the Rolla Breakfast Rotary Club and manages Audubon Trails Nature Center for the Ozark Rivers Audubon Chapter in Rolla.