Med-Challenger Observes National Immunization Awareness Month
By being vaccinated, you’re not only protecting yourself – you’re protecting your community.
National Immunization Awareness Month is an observance held annually in August to highlight the important role vaccines play in preventing disease across the lifespan. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), thousands of Americans get sick each year from diseases that could easily have been prevented via vaccination.
Do Vaccines Really Work?
In short, yes. Immunizations are the cornerstone of preventive health. While no vaccine has a record of 100% effectiveness, studies have cited childhood vaccination as 85% – 98% effective.
To put this in perspective, we’ll use measles as an example. These graphs, while focusing on one disease, make a compelling case for vaccine effectiveness.
“If you get measles, three years down the road, you could die from something that you would not die from had you not been infected with measles.”C. Jessica Metcalf
Assistant Professor of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Princeton
Something to consider: Vaccinating against one disease often helps ward off other infectious diseases. By bolstering the immune system with one immunization, you are building a defense against countless others, thus reducing the overall spread of disease due to indirect effects of measles infection on the human immune system. “Our findings suggest that measles vaccines have benefits that extend beyond just protecting against measles itself,” said Michael Mina, a medical student at Emory University who worked on the study while doing postdoctoral research at Princeton University. “It is one of the most cost-effective interventions for global health.”
What Is “Herd Immunity”?
When you get vaccinated, you’re not only protecting yourself – you’re protecting your community. This concept is known as “herd immunity”. It is defined as “the resistance to the spread of a contagious disease within a population that results if a sufficiently high proportion of individuals are immune to the disease, especially through vaccination”.
Though the number of cases of several infectious diseases have steeply declined in the U.S., some of these diseases are still quite common in other countries and can be brought to the U.S. via international travel.
So, in turn, individuals who aren’t vaccinated can easily spread disease to others who are too young to be vaccinated, cannot be vaccinated due to severe allergies, or to people with weakened immune systems, such as transplant recipients, or people with cancer, HIV/AIDS, or type 1 diabetes, to name a few. This could result in long-term complications and even death for these vulnerable people.
Physicians Can Promote Immunization by Educating Patients
We all have a public health commitment to our communities to protect each other and each other’s children by vaccinating our own family members. Practicing physicians can strike up discussions with individual patients and families, distribute patient handouts, or even use social media & blogging to detail the importance of vaccination, who should get them, and possible side effects. Many physicians and educators approach the topic of immunization with medical students early on in their training, enabling them to relay this information to their future patients in hopes of further increasing immunization rates.
Fox, Maggie. “Measles Vaccination Saves You From More Than Measles.” NBCNews.com, NBCUniversal News Group, 7 May 2015, 2:18 PM, www.nbcnews.com/storyline/measles-outbreak/measles-vaccination-saves-you-more-measles-n355501.
You, Jia. “Here’s the Visual Proof of Why Vaccines Do More Good than Harm.” Science | AAAS, American Association for the Advancement of Science, 27 Apr. 2017, 1:15 PM, www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/04/here-s-visual-proof-why-vaccines-do-more-good-harm.
B., Isabella. “Graphic Proof That Vaccines Work (with Sources) – Isabella B. – Medium.” Medium, Augmenting Humanity, 3 Jan. 2015, medium.com/@visualvaccines/graphic-proof-that-vaccines-work-with-sources-61c199429c8c.
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