Medical Minutes: Answers to frequently asked questions

Importance of Vaccinations

Siri Akal

MD

Question: Why get vaccinated ?


The old adage an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure stands true when it comes to vaccinations to prevent childhood and adult illnesses.


What is the purpose of a vaccine?


Immunity is the body’s way of preventing disease. We are exposed to thousands of germs throughout our life. Our immune system tries to fight them off but some diseases are deadly. Vaccines use parts of germs called antigens to recognize certain diseases and boost our immune systems to fight them off. Before a vaccine is ever given to people, the FDA oversees extensive lab testing of the vaccine that can take several years to make sure it is safe and effective. Vaccination is a highly effective, safe and easy way to help keep your family healthy.


Are there side effects to a vaccine?


Like any medicine, vaccines can cause side effects like low grade fevers, or pain and redness at the site of injection but they go away on their own and long term effects are extremely rare.


How long does the immunity from a vaccine last?


Protection from some childhood vaccines can wear off over time. Adults may also be at risk for vaccine-preventable disease due to age, job, lifestyle, travel, or health conditions. There are certain high risk groups of people who have immunity problems, take medications that suppress their immune system, or have no spleen and are at higher risk of getting diseases. Vaccines give these people a boost to their immune system and saves lives. That said, there are also some people who should not get certain vaccines. This is due to allergies to components in the vaccine (egg in flu vaccine) or live vaccines (varicella–chicken pox) that their immune system cannot handle. Your healthcare providers can guide you about what vaccines you need during childhood (Dtap, HIB, Polio, MMR, Varicella, Hep B, Prevnar), teenage years (HPV, Menveo, Tdap) and as adults PCV 23 and Shingrix. Of course, the flu vaccine is for all ages from 6 months and older during flu season, including pregnant women.


Vaccine Information Statements (VISs) are information sheets produced by  the CDC that explain both the benefits and risks of a vaccine to vaccine recipients. Federal law requires that healthcare staff provide a VIS to a patient, parent, or legal representative before each dose of certain vaccines.


The CDC states that vaccines are safe. Vaccines do not cause autism. Vaccine-preventable diseases are dangerous and vaccination is a highly effective, safe and easy way to help keep your family healthy.

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