Immunization: You have questions, we have answers
TriStar Health answers your vaccine questions to round out National Immunization Awareness Month.
As we round out August, we would be remiss not to acknowledge National Immunization Awareness Month. Every year, August serves as the month we emphasize the importance of immunizations and their ability to protect people of all ages from preventable diseases through on-time vaccination.
We’ve heard all about the Covid-19 vaccine throughout the last couple of years. This National Immunization Awareness Month, let’s not forget the other vaccines that are equally important for us, our loved ones and our communities.
What are vaccines?
Simply put, vaccines are a way to keep you safe against preventable diseases. Vaccines train your immune system to recognize and form antibodies against these diseases without having to actually encounter them.
Vaccines activate your body’s natural defense, the immune system, to help you safely develop immunity to the disease. Immunity is established when your body can recognize and counteract a disease before becoming sick. This allows you to be exposed to the disease without becoming infected and the subsequent adverse reaction.
How do vaccines work?
A vaccine is introduced to your body through either injection, oral administration or a nasal spray. Once presented to the body, the immune system immediately reacts by recognizing the invading germ as a threat. Our immune system kicks into gear, producing antibodies (naturally-produced proteins) to fight the disease and remembering and knowing how to combat the disease if encountered in the future.
Think of vaccines as proactive. Rather than treating the symptoms of or complications resulting from a disease, vaccines train your body to prevent the disease in the first place.
What are the benefits of getting vaccinated?
Now that we’ve clarified what vaccines are and how they work, you might be wondering why you should get vaccinated in the first place. The advantages of proper immunization are extensive, and they extend not just to you and your loved ones but to your community and economy, too.
- Protecting yourself from disease — If you go without vaccines, you put yourself at risk for contracting severe illnesses that can be prevented, many of which can be life-threatening. The HPV vaccine lowers your risk of cervical cancer, and the flu vaccine lowers your risk of flu-related heart attacks or other flu-related complications. According to the World Health Organization, childhood vaccines alone save over 4 million lives annually.
- Protecting your community —Not everyone can be vaccinated, such as those who are immunocompromised and children younger than 6 months. However, when enough people become immune to a disease — usually between 50 and 90 percent of a population — the disease is no longer able to spread. This is known as herd immunity, and it’s achieved by means of mass community immunization.
- Aiding in economic gains — Vaccines are cost effective and increase labor participation. Money that would be spent on healthcare can be saved and invested in the future or spent in other areas of the economy. Further, a population with better health often lowers healthcare costs. And finally, those who are vaccinated return to the workforce faster — if they leave at all.
Are vaccines safe?
By law, vaccines undergo multiple tests over the course of years to ensure their safety before being licensed for public use. These clinical trials include laboratory studies and animal studies. From there, if the vaccine is determined to be safe, it then goes through additional testing in humans before it is approved to go to market by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Once vaccines are on the market and in use, they are continuously monitored via multiple systems to ensure continued safety.
While the ingredient label on vaccines can appear unfamiliar or intimidating, many of the elements used in vaccines occur naturally in our bodies, environments and foods.
What vaccines do I need? What about my child?
If you have questions about what vaccines you or your children or missing, or if you’re confused about how often you should be vaccinated, the CDC provides multiple tools and charts for you to reference.
- Vaccine information for adults, based on risk factors
- Adult vaccine assessment tool
- Vaccine schedule for infants and children
- Vaccine schedule for preteens and teens
What if I still have questions?
For any additional questions you have, don’t hesitate to talk to a physician. At TriStar Health, we believe in the benefits immunizations offer you and your loved one’s health. Check in with your primary care provider to ensure your and your children’s vaccinations are current.