Vaccinations protect you from serious diseases – and here's why you need them
Following recommended vaccination schedules is a simple way to avoid the potentially life-changing effects of many serious diseases. Although concerns about side effects may tempt you to skip a vaccine or to not vaccinate your children, vaccines have been shown to be safe and effective for most people.
Before vaccines were invented, many people died or developed serious health complications after becoming ill with polio, measles, mumps, whooping cough, tetanus and other illnesses. Fortunately, researchers discovered that giving people a vaccine that contained a tiny amount of a killed or inactivated virus prevented people from becoming sick when exposed to a disease.
Vaccines prompt your body to produce antibodies, proteins that recognize and attack specific germs. Once the germs enter your body, the antibodies destroy them. Americans were thrilled when vaccines were first introduced. In fact, people lined up for blocks to receive polio vaccinations in the 1950s.
Will vaccinations cause side effects?
Vaccines have helped eliminate or reduce diseases for decades. Minor side effects can occur with any type of vaccine and aren't usually a cause for concern. In fact, they may be a sign that your body is producing antibodies. It is extremely rare for someone to have a serious reaction to an approved vaccination in the U.S.
Why should people get vaccinated?
Vaccinations not only protect you, but can also stop diseases from spreading throughout your community. When enough people are vaccinated against a particular disease, it may even be possible to completely eliminate the disease. Smallpox, a disease that once killed millions of people, was eliminated worldwide thanks to an effective vaccine.
Getting vaccinated also protects people who can't receive vaccines, including infants who aren't yet old enough for immunizations and people who have certain medical conditions. If you're vaccinated, you can't spread a disease to unvaccinated people in most cases.
What vaccinations are recommended for children?
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends these vaccines for children:
- Measles, mumps and rubella
- Haemophilus Influenzae type B
- Diptheria, tetanus and pertussis
- Hepatitis A and B
- Pneumococcal conjugate
- Meningococcal conjugate
- Meningococcal B
- Human papillomavirus
Suggested vaccine schedules are based on when vaccinations will generate the best immune system response in babies, children and adolescents.
What about vaccinations for adults?
Although most vaccinations are given to children, you can receive immunizations at any age. If you're an adult and haven't had some of the vaccines listed above, it's never too late to get them. In some cases, protection can decline decades after you receive a vaccine. So you may want to ask your doctor to check your antibody levels and schedule immunizations if your immunity to a particular disease has decreased.
Adults should also plan to get an annual flu vaccine. Depending on your age, you may also benefit from vaccines that prevent illnesses more common in older people, such as shingles and pneumonia. And as new illnesses arise, such as COVID-19, there may be other vaccinations recommended. For now, it's strongly recommended that you get a COVID-19 vaccine if you haven't already done so. Follow future guidance if booster shots are recommended at a later date.
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