By Jessica Sheehy
Mayo Clinic Health System
Whether it’s the common cold or a strain of the flu, no one enjoys getting sick. It goes without saying that more serious illnesses not only make you feel terrible, but they can present major risks to your health.
Fortunately, vaccines have proven to be extremely effective in preventing a host of diseases and conditions.
As children approach the start of school – and since August is National Immunization Awareness Month – now is the time to increase your knowledge about vaccinations.
Q. Is there a difference between the terms vaccination and immunization?
A. Yes. A vaccination uses dead or weakened versions of bacteria or viruses to protect patients against diseases and conditions.
Immunization is the method by which an individual develops immunity to these diseases. This happens via a vaccination or from infection with that bacteria or virus.
Q. Are vaccinations really that important?
A. Vaccinations are very important, especially for young children. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), infants receive some passive immunity from their mothers after birth.
However, these immunities wear off during the child’s first year and are ineffective against diseases like pertussis (whooping cough).
Without vaccinations, young children’s bodies often can’t fight diseases. This can lead to serious complications and even death.
Q. Should I space my child’s vaccinations out?
A. There is no evidence that suggests it’s more effective for children to receive vaccinations in intervals.
In fact, children are able to respond to multiple vaccine exposures at the same time, without adverse effects. Studies show that vaccinations given in a group are just as effective as individual shots.
Q. Is there a link between vaccinations and autism?
A. No. The study that reported a connection between vaccinations and autism had poor statistical data and was completely refuted by the Lancet medical journal in 2010.
Additionally, Up to Date – a well-established, online medical text referencing the most current evidencebased medicine – states, “Multiple large, welldesigned epidemiologic studies and systematic reviews have found insufficient evidence to support an association between the MMR (Measles/Mumps/ Rubella) vaccine and autism.”
Q. Are vaccines safe?
A. Yes. Vaccines undergo elaborate testing to ensure that they are safe and benefit those receiving them.
There are minor risks with vaccines, including fever, skin irritation and soreness. These side effects are much less severe than the illnesses they aid in preventing.
Q. What vaccinations are recommended?
A. Leading health care providers and the CDC recommend these vaccinations:
* Diptheria/Tetanus/ Pertussis
* Haemophilus Influenza B
* Hepatitis A
* Hepatitis B
* Human Papilloma Virus
* Varicella (Chickenpox) Many of these vaccinations can be administered in groups, and there are also “catch up” schedules available.
There are certain individuals who should not receive vaccines. It’s important to discuss this with your health care provider. Also, you can review guidelines on the CDC’s website. In a world of uncertainty, protecting yourself and your loved ones is of paramount importance.
Vaccinations are at the front line of disease defense and are one of the safest and most costeffective preventive healthmeasures.
If you have any questions about vaccinations, consult your health care provider.
Jessica Sheehy, physician assistant, is a Mayo Clinic Health System infectious disease specialist.
For more information, please go to www. mayoclinichealthsystem. org. Health & Fitness coverage is supported by Mayo Clinic Health System, preserving the health and well-being of southern Minnesota communities.