August is National Immunization Awareness Month

From measles to polio to Hepatitis, there are over 10 different preventable diseases your child can be protected from before the age of 2. But adults also need vaccinations from serious illnesses like the flu and pneumonia.

August is the national Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion’s (ODPHP) Immunization Awareness Month, a time to raise awareness about vaccines and share strategies to increase immunization rates in the community.

By the Numbers: How Vaccines Prevent Diseases

When germs and bacteria enter the body, our immune systems create cells that fight these infections. These defense cells remain, even after the infection is gone.

Vaccines use this natural defense system to create protective cells that fight diseases. By injecting a small amount of antigens that imitate infection without causing illness, vaccines cause our immune systems to create cells that attack infections and prevent them in the future.

What has been the actual impact of vaccines on the U.S. population? Here are some statistics:

  • Between 1 and 3 out of every 1000 children in the United States who come down with measles will die from the disease. But thanks to vaccines, measles here has been mostly eliminated. Though its presence has risen in the past two years, the 70 U.S. citizens who had the disease in 2016 is drastically less than the over 530,000 annual cases reported before the vaccination became widespread.
  • Diseases like smallpox, diphtheria, and polio have been almost completely eliminated in the U.S. Most modern occurrences come from unvaccinated citizens who travel abroad and bring the disease back with them. Considering the massive impact these diseases had decades ago – diphtheria, for example, killed over 15,000 people in 1921 – it’s safe to say that vaccines have saved hundreds of thousands of lives over the years.
  • Though many have been completely eliminated in America, some diseases are still prevalent in other countries. Measles in particular affects around 20 million people a year in certain regions of Africa and Asia.

Are vaccines harmful to children?

Recently, the negative side effects of vaccination have become a hot-button issue in the media. Most children will experience swelling, redness, and soreness in the areas they receive an injection. Fewer than one in one million children will come down with an allergic reaction to their shots, but these reactions can be treated with widely-available medicines.

Additionally, prominent health groups like the World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control, and the American Academy of Pediatrics have all stated that the risk of vaccine side effects is low in normal children, and much less dangerous than allowing a child to go unvaccinated.

How you can raise awareness about immunizations

The ODPHP offers several strategies for encouraging people to get vaccinated in your community:

  • Talk to friends, family and community members about vaccines – remind them that they aren’t just for kids.
  • Use a sample post to tweet about National Immunization Awareness Month.
  • Add a web badge to your website, blog or social media profile.

At the American Inn of Bethesda we are committed to protecting community members of all ages. We are proud to support local health organizations working to rid our world of harmful diseases.