National Immunization Awareness Month

Each year in August, National Immunization Awareness month occurs. During this month, many of the worldwide organizations educate the public and world on the importance of vaccinations at all ages. While children typically receive the most vaccinations, adults can continue to get them through their lives as well.

Vaccinations help with Immunity

When babies are born, they are born with an immune system composed of glands, cells, organs, and fluids located throughout their body. This immune system recognizes germs and bacteria that enter the body as “foreign invaders” or antigens and their system then produce proteins called antibodies to fight against them. This is the body’s immunity, or way of preventing disease from taking over.

Upon the first exposure to a specific antigen, lets use the rubella virus as an example- the immune system then produces antibodies specially made to fight that virus. This process takes time and the immune system cannot always work fast enough to prevent the antigen from causing further disease, so the person or child can still get sick. Our bodies immune systems are designed to “remember” antigens, and if the same antigen enters the body again, even after years of no exposure, the immune system can then react faster in releasing the antibodies to keep the disease at bay the second time. This is called immunity.

While it would be ideal to be able to prevent all diseases and give everyone the immunity to fight all viruses and diseases before people got sick, it just does not work that way. The fact is, vaccines contain the same antigens that cause the disease. As an example, the rubella vaccine contains the rubella virus. But the antigens in the vaccine are either killed, or weakened to the point that they cannot cause disease.

These antigens are strong enough to make the immune system produce antibodies that lead to immunity. Many specialists linked to the CDC state that, “a vaccine is a safer substitute for a child’s first exposure to a disease” (CDC). The child then gets protecting without having to get the actual virus. Through the use of vaccination, children can develop immunity to some of the world’s most dangerous diseases and viruses, thusly preventing them from becoming deathly ill.

Other Facts about Vaccinations

  • Newborn babies are immune to many diseases because they have antibodies they got from their mothers. However, this immunity goes away during the first year of life.
  • If an un-vaccinated child is exposed to a disease germ, the child’s body may not be strong enough to fight the disease. Before vaccines, many children died from diseases that vaccines now prevent, such as whooping cough, measles, and polio. Those same germs exist today, but because babies are protected by vaccines, we do not see these diseases nearly as often.
  • A weakened form of the disease germ is injected into the body. The body makes antibodies to fight these invaders. If actual disease germs ever attack the body, the antibodies will still be there to destroy them.Immunizing individual children also helps to protect the health of our community, especially those people who cannot be immunized (children who are too young to be vaccinated, or those who can’t receive certain vaccines for medical reasons), and the small proportion of people who don’t respond to a particular vaccine.
  • Vaccine-preventable diseases have a costly impact, resulting in doctor’s visits, hospitalizations, and premature deaths. Sick children can also cause parents to lose time from work.

Why Vaccinations so Important

It is better to prevent a disease than to treat it after it occurs. Diseases that were prevalent decades ago that circled and infected the world, like rubella or German measles, polio, measles, diphtheria, pertussis or whooping cough, mumps, tetanus, rotavirus and Hib can now be prevented with vaccinations. Thanks to a vaccine, one of the most terrible diseases in history, smallpox, no longer exists outside of the laboratory. Over the years, vaccinations have prevented and saved millions of lives.

*While we are educating on National Immunization month, we do not side either way with vaccinations and if you should or should not get them. For more information about vaccinations, please refer your questions and concerns to yours or your child’s medical care team.

Resources Used:

Reclaiming Intimacy (image used from CDC; only for educational purposes)

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