To Vaccinate or Not to Vaccinate? – not even a question

 In Prevention, Vaccination

One of the more talked about medical issues today is Vaccination.  Vaccines, put simply, protect us from getting infections – many of which are potentially deadly.  They can also protect those around us, especially infants, who don’t have the immune system to fight off infections as well.  So, vaccination seems like a no-brainer.  Yet people are remarkably resistant to receiving vaccines, either because of a lack of concern about the particular infection (“The flu isn’t that bad.”), fear of needles, or fear of the vaccine itself (“I heard the flu shot makes you sick.”).

I won’t argue here the merits of vaccination – for me there is no argument.  We’ve seen a resurgence of infections we thought to be under control because people are refusing to get, or are putting off, a simple injection.  (Most recently, Whooping Cough – a potentially deadly but vaccine-preventable disease – has been in the news because outbreaks in children are on the rise.)

The vaccination schedule is simple for adults (a lot simpler than it is for children, at least).  There are 5 vaccines recommended for all adults – and some of those become unnecessary in certain situations.  Check to see if you’ve had these 5 vaccines:

  1. Influenza – We hear about it every year.  And every year I hear the same thing from some of my patients – “The flu isn’t that bad.”  Go online and Google “flu pandemic 1918” or more recently “Swine flu 2009”.  See how “bad” it really can be.
  2. Tetanus, Diphtheria, Pertussis (Tdap) – This is the one which has more recently been recommended for all adults.  Pertussis causes Whooping Cough, which has seen an increased incidence in children.  So, if you aren’t going to get it for you, get it to help protect very young children – who are prone to illness and in many cases haven’t yet been vaccinated.
  3. Varicella (a.k.a. Chicken Pox) – If you’ve never had chicken pox as a child, or you’re not sure, there is a simple blood test to find out.  Then get vaccinated.  As much as this one hits hard in children, it packs a bigger punch as an adult.
  4. Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR) – This one’s been available for years, so many of us were vaccinated as children.  But if you weren’t, are aren’t sure, get the shot.  Pockets of these diseases are starting to pop up after years of tight control.
  5. Human Papillomavirus (HPV) – This vaccine is only approved for those under age 27 – but if you’re in that age group, get the vaccine.  HPV is sexually transmitted, and causes cervical cancer.  Reduce your risk by getting vaccinated.

Other vaccines may be necessary depending on your age, medical history or travel plans.  So talk with your doctor about what’s recommended for you.

With the possible exception of hand-washing and penicillin, vaccines are perhaps the most important development in medicine.  You can protect yourself, and those around you, from serious illness by getting vaccinated.  Please make an appointment, today.

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