The Benefits of Preventive Immunizations

It is important to be aware of the benefits of preventive immunizations as vaccinations save lives and protect communities from diseases that had once ran rampart throughout the United States.

Diseases such as varicella, meningococcal, measles, mumps, rubella, polio, tetanus and more have become very rare within the United States thanks to routine vaccinations. It is important to understand that vaccinations never cause the disease that they are meant to immunize against, nor do they cause autism. In fact, side effects for preventive vaccines are rare and mild with the most serious side effects referring to allergic reactions that occur in less than one percent of cases. In addition to preventive vaccines, it is important to learn about therapeutic vaccines and how they may change the way treatments are provided to patients who have already contracted an illness such as cancer. To learn more about the preventive immunizations that prevent serious and often deadly diseases — refer to the information that has been provided within the sections below.

Preventive Vaccines Versus Therapeutic Vaccines

When you think of the word vaccine you most likely imagine a preventive measure that can help your body to become immune to a specific type of disease. However, preventive vaccines and therapeutic vaccines are very different. For starters, a preventive vaccine will help you to build an immunity to a disease while a therapeutic vaccine is only administered after an individual has already contracted an illness such as certain cancers, herpes and HIV.

Preventive vaccines are composed of tiny amounts of dead or weakened germs. Vaccines undergo years of testing through the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) before the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend them to the public. From there they are thoroughly monitored with each batch of vaccines tested for potency, purity and sterility. By introducing a vaccine to your body, your immune system adapts to the virus or bacteria in order to prepare itself to fight off a disease more efficiently. In many cases, a vaccine can give you complete (or nearly so) immunity to a disease, making vaccinations an important way to stay healthy throughout your life. One of the most important things to know about preventive vaccines is that they cannot give you the disease that they immunize for. In fact, side effects are very rare and generally mild. Side effects such as pain at the injection site, headache, fever or nausea generally go away on their own within a few days.

Therapeutic vaccines have been introduced in more recent years and are still being developed as a way to provide personalized treatment for an individual who has contracted certain illnesses. Rather than provide you with immunization, therapeutic vaccines give rise to a therapeutic response, strengthening and expanding your immune system in order to help you to fight off an illness such as cancer. While therapeutic vaccines have a great deal of potential, in theory, they currently fall short of their ideal goals. However, in recent years, therapeutic vaccines have had a larger rate of success, especially when combined with more traditional methods of treatment. Success rates are higher when an illness is caught early, such as the early stages of cancer.

Vaccine-Preventable Diseases

As mentioned previously, preventive vaccines can help your body build an immunity to serious and often deadly diseases. These diseases include, but are not limited to:

  • Chickenpox (Varicella)
  • Meningococcal
  • Measles
  • Mumps
  • Rubella
  • Pneumococcal
  • Polio

While many of these diseases were once very common within the United States (and are still found in other parts of the world) vaccinations have reduced the amount of outbreaks and cases of these diseases substantially. Not only does preventive vaccinations help to keep you safe, but it keeps your community safe as well. Some people will not be able to obtain a vaccination due to weakened immune systems or severe allergies. Therefore, these people will then have to rely on their community’s upkeep on vaccinations in order to avoid the disease.

The varicella (chickenpox) vaccine is recommended to children and adults in just two doses. Vaccinations provide a 94 percent effectiveness with cases that do emerge presenting as far more mild. While chickenpox is not generally deadly to everyone — infants, pregnant women and those with weakened immune systems are far more likely to succumb to the disease as it can lead to serious complications such as lung infections. This virus can also lead to the development of shingles later in life, which can affect the nervous system.

Thanks to vaccinations, Meningococcal disease has become rare within the United States, but there are still a handful of cases each year. This disease can cause serious brain infections as well as infections within the spinal cord and blood. The disease is so severe that it can become deadly in just a few short hours, especially to teens, young adults and those with weakened immune systems.

Measles, mumps and rubella prevention are all part of the MMR vaccination. This vaccine is typically administered twice throughout childhood, but most adults will be able to be vaccinated so long as they do not meet disqualifications such as having a weakened immune system, a family history of immune system problems and recent blood transfusions. While measles can begin as a rash that covers up to the entire body, it can lead to pneumonia, brain damage and even death. The mumps virus is especially dangerous as early symptoms are presented as those of the common cold with fever, chills ad general weakness. However, as the disease progresses it can lead to deafness, internal swelling and death. Rubella can cause arthritis in teenagers and female adults with pregnant women carrying a far more serious risk as rubella can lead to serious birth defects and miscarriages.

Pneumococcal is a very contagious disease that can lead to infections within the lining of the spinal cord, brain and lungs as well as blood infections. This disease is fatal on its own, but it is most dangerous to infants and senior citizens. Fortunately, you need only be vaccinated once for pneumococcal.

Thanks to vaccinations, there has not been a case of Polio within the United States in over 35 years. Once very common within the states, Polio is a severe and contagious disease that can lead to serious medical conditions such as permanent disabilities and death. Children will generally receive four doses of the Polio vaccine as art of their routine vaccine schedules, while adults can still obtain the vaccination if they have not already received it.

Flu Vaccinations

A virus with symptoms that include fever, chills, cough, body aches, fatigues and headaches causes the flu, also known as influenza. While most cases of the flu are not fatal, influenza can lead to far more serious health conditions such as pneumonia, the worsening of long-term medical conditions, inflammation within the brain or heart and sepsis. These more serious conditions can quickly become deadly, especially for senior citizens, infants, children, pregnant women and those with certain medical conditions such as heart failure and asthma.

The flu is very contagious as it can be spread by coughing, sneezing, touching surfaces and even speaking. Since the influenza virus adapts and changes each year, it is important to get your annual flu vaccine each year prior to the end of October as it can take up to two weeks after an injection to build immunization. Like all preventive immunizations, side effects are rare are generally mild when they occur. After receiving your flu vaccine, you may experience cold like symptoms such as headache, fever and muscle aches. However, the flu vaccination is your best chance at avoiding influenza this upcoming flu season.

DTap and Tdap Vaccines

The DTap and Tdap vaccines can help you build an immunity to three serious diseases: diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis. The largest difference between these two types of vaccines is the age that you receive them. The DTap vaccine is part of a child’s routine immunization schedule and is recommended for children between the ages of six weeks and six years with four of five doses administered in total. Tdap is administered to children and adults who are 11 years of age and older and only comes in one dose. However, you will need to obtain a tetanus booster vaccine once every 10 years and a Tdap vaccine during the third trimester of each pregnancy.

The United States experienced more than 200,000 cases of diphtheria in the 1920’s, but thanks to vaccinations, that number has dropped by 99.9 percent. However, outbreaks of diphtheria still occur in other parts of the world, making it imperative that you still vaccinate against diphtheria here. Diphtheria consists of high mortality rates, especially in infants and the elderly, as it creates a thick coat of dead tissue in the nose and throat. This can make it hard for a person to breathe, however, more serious complications include paralysis, lung infections and lung failure.

Tetanus has been uncommon within the United States since 1947, but this deadly disease carries an up to 20 percent mortality rate among those afflicted. It is not contagious, but rather enters the body through deep wounds, burns and dead skin. Tetanus can cause painful muscle spasms that are so severe that they can break bones as well as seizures, stiff muscles and death.

Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, once effected more than 200,000 children alone each year within the United States. This disease can quickly become deadly, especially to infants, pregnant women and senior citizens. It presents itself as coughing fits that make a “whoop” noise at the end. The disease is so severe, coughing fits can break a person’s ribs and lead to serious complications such as brain damage, lung infections and convulsions.

HPV Vaccine

The Human papillomavirus (HPV) is still very common within the United States. In fact, it is said that one in four people have it at any given time. While most cases of HPV infections are mild, display no symptoms and resolve on their own within a few months, this is not always the case. HPV can lead to several forms of cancers including:

  • Cervical cancer
  • Vaginal cancer
  • Vulvar cancer
  • Penile cancer
  • Anal cancer
  • Rectal cancer
  • Oropharyngeal cancer

HPV is spread through intimate contact such as oral, vaginal and anal sex and it affects both men in women. In fact, each year it is estimated that around 17,500 women and 9,300 men are diagnosed with a cancer that is related to an HPV infection. Often times, by the time that these cancers show any symptoms, they have grown more aggressive and have become much harder to treat, ultimately leading to high mortality rates.

The best way to protect yourself against an HPV infection is to get vaccinated. While it is recommended that the vaccine is obtained between the ages of 15 and 26, the vaccine still offers some protection to individuals who are older than the age of 26.

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