Vaccines protect you, your family and your community
Pockets of our country are experiencing a significant uptick in the number of measles. Measles is not just a harmless childhood illness. It is actually a highly contagious, dangerous disease that can even be deadly.
But measles is also easily preventable with a safe and highly effective vaccine. It is especially important to remember the value of vaccines as we mark National Infant Immunization Week, which reminds us that vaccines are essential to the health of our youngest and most vulnerable.
As a regional director for the Department of Health and Human Services Region 10, which includes Idaho, it’s my job to raise awareness of facts that can help protect the health of all Americans.
Vaccines play an extremely important role in this goal because they save lives, protect your children from debilitating and deadly diseases, and promote the overall health of the community where you live and work.
Vaccines are safe and highly effective. There’s a lot of misinformation swirling around out there suggesting otherwise, so we want to get the facts out there.
Vaccines are among the most extensively studied medical products we have. Large studies undertaken over the years have confirmed their safety again and again. Vaccines do not cause autism and do not contain toxic chemicals. Any serious side effects from vaccines are exceedingly rare, and the protection from disease that vaccine provide outweighs any risks.
Some parents also wonder whether it is safe for children to get multiple vaccines in a day. The answer is yes, and we have years of science that backs that up. Even if your child gets several vaccines in a day, the weakened germs in vaccines that build protection make up only a tiny fraction of what a child’s immune system fights off every day.
So, what do vaccines cost and where can you get them? Medicaid, private health plans, and federally funded health centers all cover vaccinations at little to no cost. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also has programs in place to help those parents who may not be able to afford vaccines so that they have one less hurdle to overcome in order to protect their children.
Vaccinations can be received from a number of different types of healthcare providers. While pediatricians are obvious choices for infant and childhood immunizations, many recommended vaccines are also available at local pharmacies, federally-funded health centers, health departments, and travel clinics. Your state health department can also tell you where to go for free and low-cost vaccines, including community centers, schools, and religious centers
What can you personally do to maximize the value of vaccines and help stop preventable diseases?
If you’re a parent, talk to your child’s doctor and make sure your child is up to date on all of his or her scheduled vaccinations. This is especially important if you have an infant, because vaccinating your baby according to the recommended immunization schedule provides protection against 14 serious childhood illnesses.
If you’re an adult, check with your doctor about whether you’re up to date on your vaccines.
If you’re a healthcare provider, explain to your patients that vaccines are safe, effective, and highly recommended, and remind them to stick to their vaccine schedule.
For measles in particular, the CDC recommends that children get two doses of the MMR vaccine, starting with the first dose at 12 to 15 months of age, and the second dose at 4 through 6 years of age.
You can find out more about the measles vaccine and other vaccines at Vaccines.gov.
We all want our children to grow up in a world that is free from preventable diseases. The single most important thing each of us can do to make that happen is staying up to date on our vaccines. So let’s get serious about this issue before it gets out of control—let’s get vaccinated.
John R. Graham is the regional director for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.