Vaccines save lives—are yours up to date?

person with adhesive bandage on upper arm

Scientists around the world are working hard to make and distribute a new vaccine for COVID-19. And while the pandemic has stolen the headlines, there are still many other diseases out there. Fortunately, many of those already have vaccines.

Immunizations have saved millions of lives from diseases like polio, measles, diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough), rubella (German measles), mumps, smallpox, and tetanus. WPS encourages you to talk to your doctor, nurse, or other health care professional to ensure you and your family are up to date on recommended vaccines.

How do vaccines work?

Vaccines reduce your risk of infection by working with your body’s natural defenses to help you safely develop immunity to disease. Vaccines are thoroughly tested before licensing and carefully monitored even after they are licensed to ensure they are safe. Like all medical products, vaccines can cause side effects. The most common side effects are mild and go away quickly.

Vaccines are important at every stage of life

When it comes to vaccinations, people often think of children. Childhood vaccinations are very important, but vaccines are important for adults and seniors, too. There are different vaccine recommendations for different stages of life.

Expectant Mothers

It’s important for the health of both the mother and the baby for the mother to be up to date on vaccines before pregnancy and to get recommended vaccines while pregnant. Vaccines are tested to ensure that they are safe and effective to receive during pregnancy. Getting vaccinated during pregnancy can help protect the baby after birth by passing on antibodies. Some diseases, like flu, are more serious for pregnant women. Changes in the immune system, heart, and lungs during pregnancy make pregnant women more prone to severe illness from flu. Risk of premature labor and delivery is increased in pregnant women with flu. If you are pregnant, ask your primary care provider about the vaccines you need during pregnancy to protect yourself and your baby.

Children

Parents have the power to protect their children against 16 serious diseases, including measles, cancers caused by HPV, and whooping cough. Vaccines provide immunity before children are exposed to potentially serious, even life-threatening diseases. Vaccines are tested to ensure that they are safe and effective for children to receive at the recommended ages.  

Preteens and teens need four vaccines to protect against serious diseases: meningococcal conjugate vaccine to protect against meningitis and bloodstream infections; HPV vaccine to protect against cancers caused by HPV; Tdap vaccine to protect against tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough; and a yearly flu vaccine to protect against seasonal flu. Some vaccines require more than one dose to provide the best protection. Each recommended dose is important. Parents should talk with their child’s doctor to make sure that the child is getting all the vaccinations appropriate to his or her age.

Adults

Vaccines can help adults protect themselves from serious diseases, like shingles, whooping cough, different types of pneumonia, and flu. It’s important to talk with your primary care provider to determine what vaccines are right for you, considering your age, lifestyle, and risk factors. If you have other health conditions, you may be at risk for complications or more serious illness from some of these diseases. For example, if you have diabetes, some illnesses, like flu, can make it harder to control your blood sugar (glucose). Also, if you have children or grandchildren, it’s a good idea to make sure you’re up to date on your vaccines so you don’t unknowingly pass an illness on to them, or they to you.

Takeaway

While many serious diseases are no longer common in the United States thanks to vaccines, these diseases still exist and can spread when people aren’t vaccinated. Last year’s measles outbreaks and this year’s COVID-19 pandemic are a reminder of how quickly diseases can spread when people aren’t vaccinated. Some diseases that are prevented by vaccines, like whooping cough and chickenpox, are still common in the United States. Every year thousands of people in the U.S. become seriously ill and are hospitalized because of diseases that vaccines can help prevent. Some even die. Making sure you and your family get vaccinated is the best way to protect yourself and others around you.

Resources

vaccines.gov
CDC’s interactive vaccines guide
Wisconsin Immunization Registry

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