Tens of thousands of Americans get sick from diseases that we can prevent with vaccines. These patients can suffer from significant pain, hospitalizations, and even death.
Why immunize if I am healthy?
Some people (and many young adults) may believe that since they are healthy, there is no need for vaccines. In fact, this is a very important time to get your vaccines, plus the protection from childhood vaccines can wear off over time.
In herd immunity, if a majority of a community is immunized, most people are protected in an outbreak because those immunized create a “barrier.” Therefore, we have so much influence in PREVENTING the spread of a disease.
On a mini scale, using the same concept of barriers, this is important to our families if a baby is infected with chicken pox, and the mom becomes infected and spreads it to the grandmother (both of whom are not immunized and never got chicken pox when younger). However, if the mother was immunized, both the mom and grandmother would be protected.
You may be at higher risk if you travel, work certain jobs or other health conditions (ex. diabetes, heart disease, and asthma). Take the quiz here (https://www2.cdc.gov/nip/adultimmsched) to see if you which vaccines you need!
Can I get infected by a vaccine? Does it depend on the type of vaccine?
The FDA closely monitors the safety of vaccines based on years of past research and use in people, and data shows the current vaccine stock is the safest in history.
There are many types of vaccines:
a. Live attenuated (ex. measles, influenza, shingles) - a weak form of a virus. It replicates for our immune systems to recognize and protect against future infections, but it does not multiply enough to cause disease. There is a rare chance these could change to a form that can cause disease, but this change is very small. This vaccine offers the longest protection
b. Kills or inactive (ex. Polio) - pathogens inactivated by heat or chemicals. The pathogen cannot multiply but is intact for our body to recognize it
c. Toxoid (ex. Tetanus) – some disease are caused by a bacteria toxin rather than the bacteria itself. These include inactivated toxins
d. Subunit and conjugate (ex. Hepatitis B, HPV) – these use pieces of pathogens, which cannot cause disease by themselves
Do vaccines cause autism?
Some people have been concerned that vaccines cause Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), but based on extensive research in the last few years, there is no link between vaccines and ASD. A 2011 Institute of Medicine report and a 2013 CDC study added to this safe conclusion.
One ingredient, thimerosal, was studied thoroughly. Since 2003, several research studies have found no links between this ingredient and ASD.
To end, a short example from history:
Download a free phone app for your immunizations: http://www.immunizationed.org
For travelers: http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/list
Find a clinic now: http://vaccine.healthmap.org/
Institute of Medicine report investigating vaccines and ASD: http://www.iom.edu/Reports/2011/Adverse-Effects-of-Vaccines-Evidence-and-Causality.aspx
CDC study on vaccines and ASD: http://www.jpeds.com/article/S0022-3476(13)00144-3/pdf?ext=.pdf
DeStefano, Frank. "Vaccines and autism: evidence does not support a causal association." Clinical Pharmacology & Therapeutics 82.6 (2007): 756-759.
Plotkin, Stanley, Jeffrey S. Gerber, and Paul A. Offit. "Vaccines and autism: a tale of shifting hypotheses." Clinical Infectious Diseases 48.4 (2009): 456-461.
Written by: Tina Hu
Drexel University College of Medicine