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"There's no way I'm getting the flu shot this year. Someone I know got it last year and it made them sick."

Sound familiar?

There's 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 keeping us—and the people around us—healthy.

What Are Preventive Immunizations?

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Preventive immunizations are commonly known as vaccines.

Some examples of vaccines you may be familiar with:

  • Flu vaccines

  • Tetanus shots

  • 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

Photo by CDC on Unsplash

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.

Vaccines Protect You And Those Around You

Widespread vaccination leads to herd immunity (also called community immunity). The more people who are immunized to 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:

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Getting vaccinated not only lowers your risk of getting certain diseases, but it also helps protect your community from outbreaks.

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Quiz

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

  • Mild fever

  • Chills

  • Mild fatigue/tiredness

  • Headaches

  • Muscle/joint pain

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

The benefits of getting preventive immunizations far outweigh the drawbacks of getting ill.

Quiz

Which symptom are you most likely to experience after getting a routine vaccine?

Summary

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Are you up to date on your vaccines?

Now that you understand how vaccines help protect our long-term health, check to see if you're up-to-date on all of your vaccines.

  1. Look up vaccine schedules in your country.

  2. Check with your doctor to see if you've gotten all of the vaccines recommended for you.

By being proactive, you can help stop the spread of dangerous diseases.

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This Byte has been authored by

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Silvan Spicer

higher education instructional designer