Vaccinations are truly one of medicine’s modern miracles and can help to prevent, and in some cases effectively eliminate (such as polio in the U.S.) various disease states. In order for vaccines to be effective, however, 85 to 95 percent of the population must be vaccinated.
August is National Immunization Awareness Month, so take the necessary steps this month to understand better the importance of vaccinations. For starters, for adults and children there are currently 17 vaccinations available that are able to prevent diseases that cause paralysis, loss of hearing, infertility and even death.
I am very aware that the topic of vaccinations has become a controversial subject in many families' homes across the country, but I don’t feel it is a topic that should be avoided by anyone. Media attention focused on claims of harm have caused many parents to either delay or completely avoid vaccinations in their children, thus leading to the re-emergence of diseases such as mumps, pertussis (whooping cough) and more recently, measles.
Time and time again, vaccinations have been shown to be effective in preventing debilitating diseases, but in the last few years, vaccination rates have declined due to misinterpretation of information. In 2004, Georgia was ranked fourth in the nation with vaccine success, but as of 2011, the vaccination rate declined by more than 10 percent in the state, with only 73 percent of Georgia residents being properly vaccinated. In 2008, Georgia was one of 15 states to witness the largest outbreak of measles in more than 10 years; in addition to pertussis outbreaks that continue to rise, with 225 reported cases in 2010.
Therefore, this month, take the time to ask the right questions of the right people. It’s not just children who need vaccinations. Adolescents, adults and seniors need to continue to stay up to date on their boosters.
I would like to close with this thought: In the first part of the 20th century, infectious diseases were the leading cause of mortality, with children holding the greatest risk of death from diseases such as measles and pertussis. Vaccinations have allowed many of us to sleep better knowing we can protect against such deadly diseases.
Talk to your provider and pharmacist about which vaccines are appropriate for you and when you should obtain them. The Centers for Disease Control also serves as a great resource to obtain information at www.cdc.gov.
Dr. Jennifer Shannon currently serves as an assistant professor of pharmacy practice and an ambulatory care pharmacist in the community. This fall, she will be opening Lily’s Pharmacy of Johns Creek, named for her daughter. Her areas of special interest include anticoagulation, cholesterol management, diabetes, heart failure and hypertension.