The recent measles outbreak at Disneyland along with the rate of vaccine refusal by parents has started a national debate on immunizations (also known as “vaccines” or “shots”). These events have raised questions, such as: Am I protected/immune to diseases? How do I develop protection/immunity? Are there vaccines to prevent me from getting diseases?
Vaccines against disease are said to be one of the greatest public health interventions of the 20th century. Although vaccination is seen as a major achievement in health and wellness around the world, the discussion about vaccines continues.
There is a distinct difference between vaccination and immunization although the terms are often used interchangeably. In a nutshell, vaccines cause immunization. Vaccination is the injection of a killed or weakened organism like a virus, bacteria or parasite that causes a particular disease or set of diseases. It produces immunity (protection) in the body against the organism so it cannot cause illness or it decreases the seriousness of an illness.
Immunization is the process by which an individual becomes immune or protected from diseases. This can happen when an individual comes in contact with the organism causing a disease or when an individual receives antibodies. Antibodies are proteins in the body that attack disease-causing organisms naturally like through breast milk or through human intervention such as getting a vaccine. It is important to note that vaccines are not available for all diseases. No one can predict when and where the next disease outbreak will occur, so make sure that you and your family members are protected by being up-to-date on vaccines.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and its Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices currently have recommendations for different vaccines for all ages to help prevent against many, but not all infectious diseases. Vaccination schedules and recommended vaccines are outlined below for each age group:
• Children (birth through 6 years old)
• Preteens and teens (7 through 18 years old)
Remember to always ask your health provider any questions that you have about your immunization status, recommended vaccines and booster shots. It’s also important to work with your health care provider, as not everyone may be eligible to receive all the recommended vaccines depending on their current health status or medical history.
Remember the famous saying: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” so make sure you take the necessary steps to ensure you and your family members are protected.
If you plan to travel, check the travel alerts and vaccine requirements.