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Shots Save Lives
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Published: 14 years ago

Shots Save Lives

Shots Save Lives: Know Your Immunization History

"Vaccination is one of the greatest public health achievements

in the United States in the 20th century. Immunizations have

eradicated smallpox; eliminated poliomyelitis in the Americas;

and controlled measles, rubella, tetanus, diptheria,

Haemophilus influenzae type b, and other infectious diseases.

Today, the greatest vaccine-preventable disease burden for

the U.S. population is among adults." Taken from remarks

delivered by David Satcher, M.D., Ph.D., Assistant Secretary

for Health and Surgeon General, delivered to the U.S. House

of Representatives Committee on Government Reform on

August 3, 1999.

As infectious diseases continue to decline, some people have become less

interested in the consequences of vaccine-preventable illnesses, like

diphtheria and tetanus, and increasingly concerned about the risks

associated with vaccines. But the benefits of getting vaccinated-to you and

your community-far outweigh the risks. We generally make sure that our

children receive their vaccinations, but vaccinations continue to be

essential for adults as well.

How do vaccines work?

After you receive a vaccination, your body makes antibodies to fight the

weak or dead germs in the vaccine. These antibodies "practice" on the

weak germs so that when the real disease germs (which can be anywhere)

invade, the antibodies will know how to destroy them. The result: you will

not become ill from a potentially deadly disease. This protection against

future disease is called immunity.

Vaccines are extensively tested in the laboratory and in human beings to

ensure their safety before they are licensed by the U.S. Food and Drug

Administration. Once licensed for public use, vaccines are continually

monitored for safety.

Many of us had a full range of vaccines during childhood; however, not all

vaccines last a lifetime. Immunization rates are lower in African Americans

due to a combination of factors, which include both less likelihood of being

offered immunizations and less likelihood of accepting an offer to be


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about

45,000 adults die each year due to complications from influenza,

pneumococcal infections, or hepatitis B-all vaccine-preventable illnesses.

You should discuss the following vaccines when reviewing your

immunization history with your doctor.

􀂃 Influenza. All people aged 65 or older should get this vaccine each

year in the fall. In addition, people who have chronic heart, vascular,

or lung disorders, including asthma; immunodeficiency orders (such

as AIDS); women in their second or third trimester of pregnancy; and

anyone who could transmit the flu to people at high risk should also

receive this vaccination.

􀂃 Tetanus and diptheria toxoids (Td). Tetanus (lockjaw) can cause

lasting damage to speech, memory, and mental function. All adults

should receive this vaccine every 10 years.

􀂃 Pneumococcal (PPV; pneumonia). This disease accounts for

500,000 cases of pneumonia, 50,000 cases of bacteremia (blood

infection), and claims 25,000 lives each year. Everyone 65 or older

should receive this vaccine, as well as people who have had

diabetes, chronic heart disease, vascular disease, or lung disorder

for two or more years.

􀂃 Hepatitis A. Hepatitis A is the most common vaccine preventable

disease in travelers. Before travelling abroad, ask your doctor about

this vaccine.

􀂃 Hepatitis B. The hepatitis B virus is 100 times more infectious than

the virus that causes AIDS. It infects between 100,000 to 140,000

Americans annually. People who have multiple sex partners or a

recent episode of a sexually transmitted disease should get this


􀂃 Measles and mumps. Anyone can get measles, but those born

after 1956 who have no proof of immunity are particularly at risk.

􀂃 Rubella (German measles). As many as 12 million women of

childbearing age are susceptible to this disease. If rubella occurs

during pregnancy, it can result in severe birth defects, miscarriage,

and stillbirths.

􀂃 Varicella (chicken pox). Approximately 5-10 percent of adults are

susceptible to chicken pox, and adults are 25 times more likely than

children to die of this disease. If you have not had chicken pox, you

should consider getting this vaccine.

Pick Your Path to Health is a national public health campaign sponsored

by the Office on Women's Health within the U.S. Department of Health and

Human Services. For other tips on improving your health, or for more

information on the Pick Your Path to Health campaign, call 1-800-994-WOMAN or visit the Web site at



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