"There's no way I'm getting the flu shot this year. Someone I know got it last year and it made them sick!"
There are a lot of misconceptions when it comes to understanding the role vaccines play in our overall health. The truth is that vaccines go a long way to keep us — and the people around us — healthy.
What Are Preventive Immunizations?
Preventive immunizations are commonly known as vaccines.
Some examples of vaccines you may be familiar with:
The shingles vaccine
Vaccines work by stimulating the body's immune system to "remember" a disease without the body actually having to get the disease.
This is why vaccines are considered preventive: they prevent diseases from happening.
Take a look at this clip for a more technical explanation of how vaccines work!
Vaccines Slow The Spread Of Dangerous Diseases.
Vaccines are one of the most important factors in reducing the spread of dangerous diseases.
Widespread vaccination has:
Completely eliminated diseases
Reduced case numbers of diseases
Lowered mortality rates
Reduced disease severity
Here are a few examples:
In the 1950s, polio was responsible for 15,000 cases of paralysis and 1.900 deaths in the United States. Today, there are no cases of polio in the United States.
Widespread vaccination led to complete global eradication of smallpox in 1980.
Global measles deaths have fallen from 2.6 million a year before a vaccine was available to just over 140,000 in 2018.
A global vaccination campaign greatly helped reduce incidents of death and serious illness due to COVID-19.
Vaccines Protect You And Those Around You
Getting vaccinated not only lowers your risk of getting certain diseases, but it also helps protect your community from outbreaks.
Widespread vaccination leads to herd immunity (also called community immunity). The more people who are immunized against a disease, the harder it is for the disease to spread.
Some groups of people can't get vaccines, such as people with compromised immune systems and people with certain allergies. Herd immunity acts as a buffer to protect these people from disease.
This graphic from the CDC shows how herd immunity works:
You're going to a concert at a large venue during flu season. In which scenario is a flu outbreak least likely?
It's Better To Prevent A Disease Than To Treat One
Many people worry that getting vaccinated might result in serious side effects, or could even make them ill. In reality, most side effects from vaccines are mild and only last 1-2 days. Experiencing severe or long-lasting side effects from vaccines is highly unlikely.
Here are some common side effects you might experience after getting a vaccine:
Tenderness, pain, swelling, and/or redness near the injection site
The benefits of getting preventive immunizations far outweigh the drawbacks of getting ill.
The side effects of many diseases there are vaccines for have a much higher likelihood of being severe. For example:
Measles can cause swelling of the brain and blindness
Polio can cause paralysis
The flu, pneumococcus, and measles can all cause lung scarring from pneumonia
HPV can cause cancer
COVID-19 can lead to a number of long-term health effects and can increase the risk of heart disease
Which symptom are you most likely to experience after getting a routine vaccine?
Are you up to date on your vaccines?
By being proactive, you can help stop the spread of dangerous diseases and protect yourself from serious illness.