Health, Science

Immunizations are Safe and Prevent Disease

By Dr. Ross Van Camp-

Immunizations are important to health at all ages. Each vaccine activates your body’s immune system to make antibodies that fight infection when exposed to that specific disease. They are the single most important advancement in medicine and have been responsible for the prevention of many severe infections.

Immunizations should start at birth and continue through old age. They prevent infections that once caused severe illness, permanent disability, and even death to many Americans. Infections that were once universal have now become rare. With this success, many people have forgotten the terrible health consequences these diseases caused. While rare complications from a vaccine receive widespread publicity, the dramatic improvement in health may go unrecognized. Avoiding recommended vaccinations could result in significant preventable health risks for the individual and for the community.

There are many different vaccine preventable diseases. Each disease is unique in the age group that is susceptible, the route of transmission, and the specific antibodies that your immune system must create for the body to defend itself. Therefore, the vaccines are given at specific ages, routes, and schedules. Some are taken by mouth, some injected into the muscle, and some are injected under the skin. Some vaccines are only needed if you travel to specific areas of the world, such as yellow fever vaccine. Some vaccines are only given to people of specific ages, such as the shingles vaccine for adults 60 and older and rotavirus vaccine for children less than 8 months old. The influenza vaccine should be given each year to nearly everyone. The influenza virus constantly changes, which allows it to hide from our immune system, so each year the vaccine is changed to keep you protected from the newest strains. New types of influenza vaccine have been developed. There is a cell-based vaccine that can safely be given to people with egg allergy. There is a high-dose influenza vaccine that improves the protection in people over 65.

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All vaccines have gone through extensive testing for safety and effectiveness. They are constantly being monitored for problems as they are used in a large number of people. There is no link between vaccinations and autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Thimerosal is a mercury-based preservative added to some vaccines in very small amounts. There is no proof that it causes any harm and it has been removed from most vaccines since 2001. About 4 of every 100,000 children will have a febrile seizure after their first Mumps, Measles, and Rubella (MMR) shot. These seizures do not cause any long-term problems.

Most vaccines are available in Seward, and many are provided by the State of Alaska at no cost to the patient. Visit Seward Community Health Center or call (907)224-CARE (2273) if you would like to receive or discuss vaccinations for yourself or your children.

 

 

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