August marks the CDC National Immunization Awareness Month. This month reminds us of the importance of vaccination – with a special focus on childhood vaccinations. It serves to inform us that we have the power to protect ourselves and our families from serious diseases like HPV related cancers, measles, and whooping cough.
At Scoop Health, we would like to encourage you to learn as much as you can about vaccines this National Immunization Awareness Month. Please check out these helpful CDC resources:
- Interactive vaccine guide – detailing vaccine guidelines for pregnant women and children
- Adult vaccine assessment tool – an interactive tool to help you keep up to date with all your vaccines.
What is a Vaccine?
This National Immunisation Awareness Month, we want to promote understanding. We believe that knowledge is power. Understanding what vaccines do will help us understand why we need to get them.
Vaccines are medicines designed to protect us from infectious diseases. Vaccines work by engaging our natural defenses to fight disease. For us to understand how they work, we first have to understand how the human body works.
The Immune System
Our immune systems are our own personal army protecting us against germs. All of our tissues and organs work together as a part of our system.
Different microorganisms that make us sick – like bacteria and viruses – have markers called antigens. Antigens tell your body that there is something foreign. They sound the alarm to kick start your defense force.
The frontline of your army is special cells called lymphocytes. Lymphocytes produce proteins called antibodies that target antigens. This then kills the germ causing the sickness. Ultimately, this protects you from getting sick.
Your body makes a unique antibody for every antigen. The first time an antigen enters your body, there is a lag before your defenses kick in. This is because you need a longer time to synthesize a new antibody. But, the next time your body encounters the same germ, your lymphocytes remember how to make the antibody. This is why you rarely get diseases like chickenpox more than once.
How Vaccines Work
Vaccines expose your body to the antigens of specific diseases – e.g. mumps. Because they are weakened, these antigens don’t make you sick. This helps you make antibodies to diseases you haven’t had before. When you encounter the bug later, you won’t get sick because your body knows how to make the right antibodies. All the protection without the risk of getting sick!
This National Immunization Awareness Month, let’s focus on protecting our families from preventable diseases.
Why Kids Need Vaccines
You have the ability to safeguard your children’s health. You can protect your family from serious diseases like whooping cough and cancers caused by HPV. These diseases are potentially life-threatening.
Many people believe that vaccines aren’t necessary because they view diseases like measles as minor. This cannot be further from the truth! Measles can cause blindness and even death. The reason these diseases are perceived as minor is because vaccines have decreased their occurrence. Also, if you do get a sickness after being vaccinated, they are generally less serious.
What About My Teen?
It is also important to remember that vaccines aren’t just for small children. Teens and preteens also need vaccines. These vaccines protect against whooping cough, tetanus, diphtheria, pneumonia, meningitis, and seasonal flu.
What About Me?
It is very important for adults to remember their own vaccines. The immunity you get against childhood diseases can wear off over time. As your body ages, you become susceptible to different diseases – another reason to get vaccines. Important vaccines for adults are seasonal flu, tetanus, and diphtheria.
National Immunization Awareness Month is the perfect time to make sure that the whole family is up to date.
What to Get When You’re Expecting
Let’s not forget pregnant mothers this National Immunization Awareness Month. Mothers pass on immunity to their unborn children. The most important vaccines to get are against whooping cough and flu.
Because of changes in immunity, as well as in the heart and lungs, flu is much more dangerous for pregnant women. This makes it even more important for pregnant women to get vaccinated.
Why Do I Need My Yearly Flu Shot?
There is a drive to get everyone to get their flu vaccine every National Immunization Awareness Month. The influenza virus is responsible for the sickness we call the flu. Influenza has a rapid mutation rate. This means that the antigen on the surface of the virus changes year-on-year. So, the flu going around this year is genetically different from the one going around last year.
The flu vaccine is produced to provide immunity against the flu strains that scientists predict will be the most common in the upcoming year. So, the flu vaccine changes every year. When you go for your seasonal flu vaccination, make sure to ask your provider if it is the most recent vaccine available.
Why Do I Still Get a Cold If I Had My Flu Shot?
It is a misconception that the common cold and the flu are the same things. They are not. This is because they are caused by different viruses. Influenza causes the flu while rhinovirus causes a cold. The common cold and the flu may have overlapping symptoms, but there are differences in how they occur.
- Gradual onset
- Nasal congestion or runny nose
- Watery eyes
- Sore throat
- General aches and pains
- Mild cough, usually wet
- Rapid onset
- Fever and chills
- Dry cough (although can be wet)
To sum it up, the flu and the common cold are two separate illnesses. The flu vaccine only immunizes you against the flu but not the common cold. So, even if you have had the flu vaccine, you can still get a cold.
Remembering Herd Immunity This National Immunization Month
If enough of the population is immunized, the community reaches a point where everyone – even those who aren’t vaccinated – is protected. This is important because it protects those who can’t get vaccinated because of age or health reasons.
It’s dangerous to rely on herd immunity to protect you. If healthy people skip vaccines, then the herd is not immune. This puts everyone at risk – your family and the larger community.
Busting Vaccine Myths This National Immunization Awareness Month
Myth: Natural immunity is better than vaccination
Fact: Vaccines are safer
Some evidence shows that immunity from getting a disease lasts longer than that from a vaccine. This does not mean that getting sick is better than being vaccinated. Natural infections can be extremely dangerous. For example, mumps can lead to deafness and sterility. It’s much better to get vaccinated due to safety – also obviously, no one wants to get sick
Myth: There is no point in getting vaccinated because you can still get stick
Fact: Vaccines can eradicate disease
The American Academy of Paediatrics says that vaccines are 99% effective. This means you are 99% less likely to get sick if you are vaccinated. Through the use of vaccines, modern medicine has managed to eradicate smallpox and, in most countries, polio. Yet, some are constantly denying the efficacy of vaccines by arguing that you can still get sick. It’s true that you can still get sick after vaccination. But, this sickness is generally much less severe if you have been vaccinated.
Myth: Diseases were eradicated by hygiene and medicines, not vaccines
Fact: Hygiene and antibiotics improved disease outcomes but vaccines are responsible for decreased infection
Anti-vaccine literature is full of this argument. Antibiotics, better socioeconomic conditions, and hygiene have made us a healthier society. This has contributed to a better survival rate. Credible scientific research has proven that vaccines are responsible for disease eradication. This includes the eradication of smallpox and polio (in most countries) as well as other decreases in infectious diseases such as hepatitis B.
Myth: Vaccines cause harmful side effects and even death
Fact: Vaccines are safe, but as with all medicines, they can have serious side effects
The risk of serious side effects following vaccination is extremely rare. In fact, the World Health Organisation (WHO) says the risk is so low that the probability cannot be accurately determined. Safety protocols have been established to prevent these extremely rare incidences. Along these lines, there is a myth that the DTP vaccine causes SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) but studies show no associated risk. In fact, there is evidence to suggest that the DTP vaccine decreases the likelihood of SIDS.
The most commonly reported side effects are minor pain at the injection site and low fever. This is normally treated with Acetaminophen.
Myth: Multiple vaccines can cause immune system overload
Fact: Giving multiple vaccines at the same time is safe
We are exposed to countless antigens every single day. Bacteria is found in your food, on surfaces you touch, and even in your body. The immune system copes with multiple challenges all the time. Scientific evidence shows multiple vaccinations are safe.
Myth: Vaccines cause autism
Fact: Vaccines do not cause autism
In the late 1990s, there was a well-publicized article that claimed to show a link between autism and the MMR (mumps, measles, and rubella) vaccine. This study was later proven to be falsified and the scientist in question – Wakefield – admitted to falsifying the evidence. In other words, he confessed to lying. Many follow-up studies have been done and none have shown any link between vaccines and autism. There are still those who cling to this belief. We must not let their misguided fear prevent us from protecting our families.
National Immunization Awareness Month is all about educating ourselves about preventing infectious diseases. Vaccines have been scientifically proven to be the most effective means of doing this. In an age of information, we must ensure we uncover the truth. By educating ourselves about common vaccine myths, we can bust them.
Improving Access to Vaccines
During National Immunization Month, it is important that we don’t forget those who are less fortunate. The CDC has started an initiative called VFC (Vaccines for Children). They provide vaccines free of charge to state facilities, allowing families from all walks of life to protect their children.
Vaccines with Scoop Health
With Scoop Health and Sedera medical cost-sharing, all childhood immunizations are fully shareable with the community. Whereas with medical insurance, you have a copay with each and every vaccine. After the full schedule of vaccines, this can add up to hundreds of dollars.
What to Remember This National Immunization Awareness Month
- We can protect our families from getting serious and potentially life-threatening diseases. It is up to us to make sure we get ourselves and our children vaccinated. Chat to your doctor and consult the CDC website to see what vaccines are right for you.
- Vaccines work by helping our immune system recognize and fight diseases we haven’t had yet.
- Vaccines are hugely effective. Because we have vaccines, diseases like mumps, rubella, and measles have become less common. Smallpox has even been completely eradicated.
- Vaccines have been proven time and time again to be safe. Although serious adverse reactions are possible with all medicines, they are extremely rare with vaccines. The main reported side effects are pain at the injection site and a mild fever. These are both easily treated by Acetaminophen.
- Vaccines do not cause autism. There is a full body of scientific literature demonstrating this. The only study that showed a link between vaccines and autism was a scam.
This National Immunization Awareness Month, Scoop Health wants to help you and your family stay healthy. In all the difficult times ahead, we are here to help you stay safe.