The Importance of Vaccines
Carla Hay-Perdue, DNP, APRN, FNP, ANP-BC, NC-BC
Community Education Coordinator/ Family Nurse Practitioner at Palo Pinto General Hospital
August 17, 2021
Imagine a world without vaccines! I do! I had chickenpox, Measles, Rubella, & Mumps before I got out of elementary school. My college roommate had polio as a child & had a permanent limp as a result. I had male cousins who were infertile because of Mumps. We have come a long way! Here are some of the diseases that are under control, thanks to vaccines:
1. Polio – Polio is a crippling & potentially deadly infectious disease caused by the poliovirus. It spreads from person to person & can invade the person’s brain & spinal cord, causing paralysis. Polio was eliminated in the United States with vaccination but still is a threat in some other countries. To keep it from reoccurring in this country, vaccinate your children. The child will get a dose between 1-2 months of age then at 4 months, then 12-23 months then between 4 & 6 years of age.
2. Tetanus – Tetanus causes painful muscle stiffness & lockjaw & can be fatal. We used to worry about tetanus every time we scraped, poked or sliced ourselves on something metal. Now we have a tetanus vaccine as part of a disease fighting vaccine called DTaP. This vaccine provides protection against tetanus, diphtheria & pertussis (whooping cough).
3.Influenza – Flu is a respiratory illness caused by the influenza virus that infects the nose, throat, & lungs. Flu affects people differently based on their immune system, age & health. Flu is dangerous for children of any age. Children younger than 6 months are more likely to end up in the hospital from flu but are too young to get a flu vaccine. The best way to protect babies against flu is for the mother to get a flu vaccine during pregnancy & for all caregivers & close contacts be vaccinated. Everyone 6 months & older needs a flu vaccine every year.
4. Hepatitis B – Worldwide, more than 780,000 people per year die from complications to Hepatitis B. This virus is spread through blood or other bodily fluids. It is especially dangerous for babies. The virus can spread from an infected mother to child during birth. All pregnant women should be tested & all babies should be vaccinated. Typically, the child will need a dose shortly after birth, then between 1-2 months & at 6 months.
5. Rubella- Rubella is spread through coughing & sneezing. It is especially dangerous for a pregnant woman & her developing baby. Rubella infections can cause a miscarriage or the baby could have birth defects or die just after birth. Protect your child against rubella. The child gets a dose between 12-23 months & again between 4-6 years of age.
6. HIB – (Haemophilus influenzae type B) isn’t as well known as some other diseases, thanks to vaccines. This virus can do some serious damage to a child’s immune system & cause brain damage, hearing loss or even death. It mostly affects kids under 5 years old. One in five suffered brain damage or became deaf. A child will need a dose between 1-2 months, then at 4 months, then at 6 months, then between 12 & 23 months.
7. Measles – Your child can get measles just by being in a room where a person with measles has been, even up to two hours after that person has left. Measles is common in other parts of the world. Unvaccinated people can get measles while traveling & bring it into the United States. Anyone who is not protected against measles is at risk. The child gets 2 doses of the MMR vaccine. One between 12 & 23 months & another between 4-6 years.
8.Chickenpox – It is a disease that causes an itchy rash of blisters & a fever. Some may have as many as 500 blisters spread over the whole body. Chickenpox can be serious, even life-threatening. It can cause skin infections, dehydration, pneumonia & swelling of the brain. Most children who get 2 doses of the vaccine will be completely protected.
9. Meningococcal – Meningococcal is an illness caused by a bacterium called Neisseria meningitidis. Symptoms start out flulike & can often cause nausea, vomiting & increased sensitivity to light, rash, & confusion. Someone can go to healthy to very ill in 48 hours or less. Even with treatment 10 to 15 out of 100 will die. The vaccine protects against this bacterium. The first dose should be given between 11 & 12 years & the second dose should be given around 16 years of age.
10. COVID – There is another disease that is threatening our health & safety. COVID. Like the rest of the diseases, COVID vaccines are a critical tool to bring the pandemic under control. No vaccines are 100% effective at preventing illness in vaccinated people. As of July 19, 2021, more than 161 million people in the United States have been fully vaccinated. Vaccine breakthrough cases will occur, some will become ill, some will be hospitalized & some will die, but the majority of the people who are becoming ill have not been vaccinated. Right now, the COVID vaccine is approved for those 12 years old & older.
Vaccines are effective in preventing harmful diseases. These are just a few examples of vaccines that improve health & quality of life. Follow up with your provider or the local Department of State Health Services to see what vaccines you & your child should receive.