We are very fortunate to live in a time when child mortality is at an all-time low.
In the past, illnesses like smallpox, tuberculosis, and polio commonly cut life short before a child could even reach the age of five. This could very well still be the case today if it weren’t for one monumental advance in modern medicine: the vaccine. August is National Immunization Awareness Month, dedicated to educating and raising awareness of the importance of vaccinations.
Immunization serves multiple purposes. Not only does it keep the immunized individual safe from serious illness, but it also protects those who aren’t fortunate enough to be immunized themselves. Children less than a year old can’t be immunized for certain diseases, but they can still contract them. Children with certain medical conditions, like leukemia, can’t be vaccinated either. Some people simply won’t respond to vaccinations or develop immunity. These people can’t be immunized themselves, so they rely on you to get vaccinated and stop the spread of disease before it can reach them.
Through vaccinations, we have the potential to eliminate certain diseases, including:
- Cervical Cancer
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis B
- Haemophilus Influenzae Type B (Hib)
- Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
- H1N1 Flu (Swine Flu)
- Japanese Encephalitis
- Lyme Disease
- Pertussis (Whooping Cough)
- Poliomyelitis (polio)
- Rubella (German Measles)
- Shingles (Herpes Zoster)
- Tetanus (Lockjaw)
- Typhoid Fever
- Varicella (Chickenpox)
- Yellow Fever
Before you run out and get vaccinated for everything under the sun, however, there are a few things you should know about immunizations. Talk to your doctor, and keep the following things in mind:
1. There could be side effects. Minor side effects could include soreness and a low-grade fever, and these should subside after a couple of days. If you are experiencing more severe or unusual side effects, call your doctor. It’s rare, but you could be having a serious reaction. For a complete list of vaccinations and the possible side effects, click here.
2. Don’t wait; vaccinate. Small children and infants under the age of five are more susceptible to disease because their immune systems have not fully developed. Diseases that used to routinely kill young children are now completely vaccine-preventable, but you must vaccinate your children on time in order for these immunizations to be effective.
3. Keep track of your immunizations. Your child’s shot record should begin with their first shot, and should be kept up-to-date with all new vaccinations. Having an updated immunization record is important. It will keep you on schedule when vaccinating your child, and will help guarantee that your child is getting all the appropriate vaccinations and not “doubling up” on certain shots.
4. You might be eligible for free vaccinations. Vaccines for Children is a federal program that provides free vaccinations to eligible children. To learn more about the program and to find out if you are eligible, visit the Vaccines for Children site.
5. Seek out more information.
General immunization questions can be answered by The CDC Contact Center at 1-800-CDC-INFO (1-800-232-4636). English and Español
Questions about vaccines and vaccine-preventable diseases frequently asked by people calling the TTY Service Hotline at 1-888-232-6348 (TTY hotline)
This month, educate yourself and your children on immunizations. Double check to make sure all of your vaccines are up-to-date with immunization schedules, and talk to your doctor before scheduling any vaccination. Protect yourself, your children, and others, and do your part to help in the eradication of potentially deadly illnesses.