Vaccines are among the most successful and cost-effective public health tools available for preventing disease and death. In the United States, vaccines have greatly reduced infectious diseases such as polio, smallpox, and measles that once routinely killed or harmed many infants, children, and adults. However, the viruses and bacteria that cause vaccine-preventable disease and death still exist and can be passed on to people who are not protected by vaccines.
Vaccination is important because it not only protects the person receiving the vaccine, but also helps prevent the spread of certain diseases, especially to those that are most vulnerable to serious complications, such as infants and young children, the elderly, and those with chronic conditions and weakened immune systems.
Many vaccine-preventable diseases are still common in many parts of the world despite the best efforts to eradicate them. Measles is still present in the United States, brought into the country by unvaccinated travelers who are infected while in other countries. When measles gets into communities of unvaccinated people in the U.S. (such as people who refuse vaccines for religious, philosophical or personal reasons), outbreaks are more likely to occur. Last year’s measles outbreak was a perfect example of how quickly infectious diseases can spread when they reach groups of people who aren’t vaccinated.
A lot of misleading information about vaccines has been in the news and on social media in recent years. As a result, there has been a disturbing increase in people choosing not to get themselves and their families vaccinated. However, vaccines are thoroughly tested before licensing and carefully monitored even after they are licensed to ensure that they are very safe. Side effects from vaccines are usually mild and temporary. Some people may have allergic reactions to certain vaccines, but serious and long-term side effects are rare.
August is National Immunization Awareness Month
National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM) is an annual observance highlighting the importance of vaccination for people of all ages. NIAM was established to encourage people of all ages to make sure they are up to date on the vaccines recommended for them. Communities have continued to use the month of August each year to raise awareness about the important role vaccines play in preventing serious, sometimes deadly, diseases.
Immunization is a shared responsibility. Families, healthcare professionals, and public health officials must work together to help protect the entire community. That’s why all of the healthcare professionals here at Community Health Connections happily support NIAM and encourage all of our patients, their families, and others to get vaccinated as needed.