As parents, every day we wrangle with car seats and seat belts to keep our kids safe. But did you know that vaccines actually save more lives than seat belts in the U.S.? It’s true! Vaccines save 42,000 lives every year in this country alone by preparing our bodies to fight deadly diseases.1 Around the world, immunization prevents between 2 million and 3 million deaths annually from diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (known as whooping cough), and measles.2 In August for National Immunization Awareness Month, the medical community highlights the importance of vaccination for people of all ages.

Thankfully 80 to 90 percent of U.S. children receive their recommended vaccines, but some parents decline immunizations. This refusal puts both their child and the community at risk. Worldwide, 1.5 million deaths could still be avoided if vaccination coverage were to improve.2

In developing countries, access is the primary barrier, but in the U.S., some parents of young children are influenced by misconceptions about immunization safety. Additionally, adults may not be educated about the benefits of influenza, pertussis, and shingles vaccines—to name a few—to protect them from serious illnesses over the course of their lifespans. In the telehealth community this month, we’re raising awareness of the important role vaccines play in population health.

Why they work

Vaccines are made up of dead or weakened forms of the bacteria or virus that cause the specific disease. When the immune system detects this in the body, it reacts to it as a threat, making antibodies against the vaccine just as it would against a real-life infection. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people can produce millions of antibodies a day, fighting infection before even knowing they were exposed. This means these antibodies are our friends: they stay in the body, ready to pounce, if the disease ever invades.

Many require multiple installments or doses, while the influenza vaccine is required every single year. The American Academy of Pediatrics immunization guidelines provide a recommended schedule that’s specific to children’s ages. While it’s been proven safe to receive several different vaccines during one visit, some parents opt to do an alternate immunization schedule for their children. Discuss the recommendations and your concerns with a pediatrician or family doctor to determine what works best for your family.

Something about safety

Data show that the current vaccine supply in the United States is the safest it’s ever been in history. According to Dr. Josephine Briggs, Director Emeritus of the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health at the National Institutes of Health, “It is essential that we recognize the extraordinary success of childhood vaccination, and that we look to the abundant scientific evidence that documents the safety and vital role of vaccines in the health of our nation.”3

Manufacturers test rigorously to ensure that vaccines are potent, pure, and sterile. Once a vaccine is licensed and recommended for use, the FDA, CDC, and other federal agencies continue to monitor its safety, while additional groups conduct new evidence-based research and compile data.

Myths and more

Myths have surrounded vaccination practices in recent years, mostly stemming from mistrust of the industry or misunderstanding of how immunizations work. Some people are worried vaccinations will cause an allergic reaction, but the CDC estimates that the risk of a serious reaction from any vaccine is one in 1 million doses. Others have concerns that autism could be linked to children’s vaccines, but studies have shown that there is no link between receiving vaccines and developing autism.4 Some parents believe the ingredients are unsafe and could led to unnecessary side effects or infection despite medical evidence to refute this.

One of the biggest myths of all is that children in the U.S. don’t need to be vaccinated because infection rates of many serious diseases are so low. They are so low because the majority immunizes, not only for their own safety, but for the safety of infants, elderly, and others who can’t receive vaccines. If the pool of people who do not vaccinate continues to grow, there will be many new opportunities for dangerous diseases to spread. This will unravel our progress and lead to a comeback of epidemics.

Vaccinations aren’t just for kids, either. More than 80 percent of U.S. adults are not up to date on their whooping cough vaccination.1 And less than half of the U.S. population gets the influenza vaccine every year, even though the virus kills more people in our country than all other vaccine-preventable disease combined.1 Now that back-to-school season is upon us, flu season is just behind it. Vaccinate yourselves and your children.

If you have any questions about vaccinations, reach out to a U.S. board-certified Teladoc physician who can provide guidance and insight about the process.

References

1http://www.immunizeusa.org/blog/2015/february/19/4-striking-statistics-about-vaccination/

2http://www.who.int/features/factfiles/immunization/en/

3https://nccih.nih.gov/health/vaccinations

4https://www.cdc.gov/vaccinesafety/concerns/autism.html

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