Vaccinations: Don’t Be Afraid of the Shot

Don’t Be Afraid of the Shot: The Importance of Vaccinations

Vaccinations are an essential part of keeping both children and adults healthy. They reduce the risk of illness, disability, and death due to disease.

Shots may hurt a little, but the diseases they can prevent are a lot worse. Each year thousands of children and adults in the United States suffer illness, are hospitalized, and even die from diseases that could be prevented by vaccines. Immunization shots, or vaccinations, are essential to good health.

Immunizations Save Lives. Advances in science have protected us against more diseases than ever before. Some diseases that once injured or killed people are no longer common—primarily due to safe and effective vaccines. Polio is a great example. Polio was once a feared disease, causing death and paralysis. But thanks to vaccination the U.S. has been polio-free since 1979. Due to worldwide vaccination efforts, only two countries (Afghanistan and Pakistan) still have small pockets of polio.

Not Just for Kids. Vaccines are available for adults to prevent serious diseases such as influenza (flu), pneumonia, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), shingles, and hepatitis A and B. The vaccines you need as an adult depend on several factors, including age, prior vaccinations, lifestyle, health conditions, job, pregnancy status, travel, and other conditions. Germs can spread quickly in the home or workplace, affecting entire communities. Adults with COPD and asthma are at increased risk of complications from influenza and pneumonia and should get a flu shot every year. Vaccination is the key to stopping vaccine-preventable diseases before they start.

Protect People You Care About. Children still get vaccine-preventable diseases. There have been resurgences of measles and whooping cough over the past few years. Measles were considered eliminated in 2000. But in 2014, more than 660 cases were diagnosed in 27 states. Last year, 147 people were part of a measles outbreak linked to an amusement park. Almost one in 10 people who became sick with measles in this outbreak were babies too young to be vaccinated. To help keep them safe, it is important that you and your children who are able to get vaccinated are fully immunized. This not only protects your family, but also helps prevent the spread of these diseases.

 Vaccination Is Safe. Vaccines are only given after careful review by scientists and medical professionals. Vaccine side effects are almost always mild such as redness or swelling at the site of the shot. This is minimal compared to the pain, discomfort, and risk of injury and death from the diseases these vaccines prevent. Serious side effects are rare. The benefits of getting vaccinated are much greater than the possible side effects.

 Help Eliminate Disease. Vaccines have reduced and eliminated many diseases that killed or disabled people just a few generations ago. For example, smallpox vaccination eradicated that disease worldwide. Your children don’t have to get smallpox shots anymore because the disease no longer exists anywhere in the world. By vaccinating children against rubella (German measles), we have dramatically reduced the risk that pregnant women will pass this virus on to their fetus or newborn, and birth defects associated with that virus are seen in only rare cases. If we continue vaccinating now, and vaccinating completely, some of today’s diseases will no longer be around to harm people in the future.

Make an Appointment. Talk to your primary care provider today about updating your vaccinations. Call 603-788-5095 for an appointment.

by John Avery, MD, primary care physician