Knowing the facts about vaccines can help you make informed decisions for yourself and your family. Vaccination has been a source of controversy in recent years, so it’s important to understand vaccines and why they matter to your family.
How Many People Get Vaccinated?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 71 percent of children 19- to 35-months old follow the recommended series of seven vaccines. According to the CDC, when it comes to the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, this number drops to 60 percent for teenage girls and 50 percent for teenage boys. HPV is a virus known to cause several types of cancer, most notably cervical cancer.
The Benefits of Vaccination
Many diseases, such as influenza, measles and chicken pox can be prevented thanks to vaccines that are available today. According to UNICEF, one-third of deaths in children under age 5 could have been prevented by vaccination.
Some preventable diseases can be deadly, especially in infants and people with compromised immune systems. According to the CDC, before the diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (DTaP) vaccine was routinely given to infants in the U.S., about 8,000 people died yearly from pertussis, commonly known as whooping cough. But today, that number has dropped to fewer than 20 deaths annually.
Community, or herd, immunity happens when the majority of a population becomes immune to a disease through wide-spread vaccination. This means opportunity for disease transmission is rare, even for people who are not able to be vaccinated. However, pertussis is a wily disease that spreads easily, decreasing the effectiveness of community immunity to protect the unvaccinated. Diseases that have high r-nought numbers, meaning they are highly transmissible, are also difficult to control with community immunity. Highly transmissible diseases include measles and mumps.
The Recommended Vaccination Schedule
The CDC provides a recommended immunization schedule for children younger than 18. The schedule can be a helpful guideline, but always speak with your doctor to determine individualized needs. Recommended immunizations include:
- Hepatitis B
- 2-months old
- Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib)
- Pneumococcal conjugate vaccines (PCV13)
- 6-months old
- 12-months old
- Measles, mumps, rubella (MMR}
- Chicken pox
- Hepatitis A
- 11- or 12-years old
- Tetanus, diphtheria and acellular pertussis (Tdap)
- Human papillomavirus (HPV)
While most vaccinations are administered during childhood, the CDC also recommends vaccines for adults including a yearly influenza shot, a tetanus and diphtheria booster once every 10 years and a herpes zoster (i.e., shingles) vaccine when you turn 60.
The Potential Risks of Vaccination
Worried about vaccination side effects? Potential risks include low-grade fever, tiredness along with redness, soreness or swelling of the injection site. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says that while rare, more serious side effects include high fever, seizures, severe allergic reactions and brain damage. The flu vaccine may cause mild flu-like symptoms.
The CDC lists allergic reaction rates for specific vaccines. For example, mild side effects like pain at the injection site and low-grade fever occur in about 25 percent of kids receiving the DTaP vaccine, while serious allergic reactions happen a rate less than one in a million doses given.
Vaccines are generally safe for most people. However, your doctor may suggest holding off if you or your child suffer from severe allergic reactions, have a weakened immune system, are pregnant or have certain health conditions. Not all vaccines are recommended for all ages, so learn the facts about vaccines and talk with your doctor to determine what is appropriate.