If you could have one superpower what would it be? Would you want to be able to fly? Or maybe the power of invisibility? Well, what about the power to be immune from preventable diseases such as the measles, rubella, tetanus, chicken pox, and the seasonal flu? Guess what? We already have this power!
The power of immunity from preventable diseases is attributed to the availability and effectiveness of vaccinations. Vaccines are helpful in preventing millions of cases of illnesses, hospitalizations and deaths every year. Since the creation of the first preventative vaccine for smallpox over 200 years ago, the world of healthcare and medicine has experienced great progress in the variety and effectiveness of vaccines offered to protect us from many diseases.
August is National Immunization Awareness Month and all month long, we want to remind parents to ensure that their children are up-to-date on their vaccinations prior to returning to school this fall. It is also important to recognize that people of all ages should receive updated vaccinations to ensure that their immune system will continue to work at its optimal level in fighting against preventable diseases.
There are myths that may affect or delay an individual’s decision to get updated vaccinations, including:
- Vaccines are just for children.
Vaccines are not just for children. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it is recommended that people of all ages, for example, get the seasonal flu vaccine to prevent the flu. Other vaccines applicable to adults include the tetanus booster shot, which is recommended for adults to get every ten years, and the vaccine for adults over the age of 65 to get to prevent pneumonia.
- I will develop the illness that the vaccine was meant to prevent, in order for my body to be able to defend it in the future.
You will not develop the illness that the vaccine you received is meant to prevent. Vaccines are meant to help an individual develop immunity to a disease without getting sick from it. When vaccines are developed, they are made to contain a weaker version of the antigen, which is an unwanted, foreign substance that causes disease in an organism. The introduction of this antigen is just enough to make our bodies able to identify and fight the disease if it were ever to come in contact with it, but not strong enough to make it develop the disease at the time of the vaccination. According to the National Public Health Information Coalition, the United States has safe and effective vaccinations and its vaccine safety system ensures that vaccines are as safe as possible.
- No one around me is getting sick from this disease that the vaccine will prevent me from, so it is very unlikely that I would get it and therefore I do not need the vaccine.
This idea is known as herd immunity, also known as community immunity. This is when a significantly high amount of the population is vaccinated for prevention from a particular disease, which therefore lowers the risk of those who are not vaccinated from getting the disease because most of those around them are vaccinated. Well, in order for herd immunity to exist, the majority of individuals in a community need to get vaccinated. If everyone in the community believed in herd immunity, community members would rely on one another to get vaccinated so they wouldn’t have to. Vaccines save lives and prevent not only the spread of illnesses, but the reception of it as well. To ensure yourself protection from a preventable disease, seek out getting or updating your vaccines at your next physical.
- I am going on vacation and I heard that I should get vaccinated to prevent myself from getting a certain disease or sick during my visit, but I will not be there that long so I am not going to get the vaccine.
Vaccinations are for your protection and it is a preventative measure. In this case, consult with your physician prior to your travels and talk about your best options. The CDC’s Traveler’s Health page features up-to-date information on recommended vaccinations and suggestions to protect your health prior to and during your travel to a foreign country.
At Whitney Young Health, people of all ages are welcome to get a physical and updated or first-time vaccinations. Ask your provider if you are up-to-date on your vaccinations and share your travel plans and any other concerns you may have about immunization myths. We are here to care for you and serve as a resource for the answers to your health questions. Seek control of your health. After all, along with immunity, good health is one of the best superpowers to have!