By Charlotte County Health Department –
Most of us have never seen anyone with polio, diphtheria, or other vaccine-preventable diseases due to the protection that vaccines provide. Because of our high immunization rate in the U.S., vaccine-preventable disease levels are at or near record lows, but if people stopped getting vaccinated, we would once again see epidemics of diseases that are nearly under control today. All vaccine-preventable diseases (except smallpox) still occur in the rest of the world, at rates higher than in the U.S. Any of these diseases can be reintroduced into any community in the U.S. at any time. Floridians are at a higher risk than people living in many other states because of the large number of foreign visitors. Most vaccine-preventable diseases spread easily where people gather together. Getting the immunization coverage rate close to 100 percent can stop outbreaks from spreading should a disease be introduced.
Vaccines (shots or immunizations) protect us from disease, disability, and death. In the U.S., vaccines have reduced or eliminated many infectious diseases that once routinely killed or harmed many infants, children, and adults. Vaccines are responsible for the control of many infectious diseases that were once common in this country and around the world, including polio, measles, diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough), rubella (German measles), mumps, tetanus, and more. Over the years vaccines have prevented countless cases of infectious disease and have helped save millions of lives. However, the viruses and bacteria that cause vaccine-preventable disease and death still exist and can be passed on to people who are not protected by vaccines.
Even though most U.S infants and toddlers have received all recommended vaccines by age 2, many under-immunized children remain, leaving the potential for outbreaks of disease. Young children are most vulnerable to serious illnessess and diseases. That is why it is very important to protect the health of young children by making sure they receive all their immunizations on time. Newborns receive some natural immunity from their mother, but it depletes during the first year of life. Young children do not have natural immunity against some diseases, such as Pertussis (whooping cough), and if an unvaccinated child is exposed to a disease germ, the child’s body may not be strong enough to fight off the disease. Before vaccines, many children died from diseases that we can now prevent. Those same germs exist today, but because babies can now be protected by vaccines, we do not see these diseases nearly as often.
In addition to routine childhood vaccinations, there are other vaccines that are recommended for older children and adolescents. In certain circumstances, rabies vaccine may be needed for children bitten by animals. Children traveling outside of the U.S. may need other vaccines, as well.
It’s important to know that vaccines are not just for children! We never outgrow the need for vaccines. The immunizations adults need are determined by factors such as age, lifestyle, high-risk conditions, locations of travel, and previous immunizations. Adults need immunizations for protection against: flu, tetanus, shingles, HPV, and more.
If your child has not had vaccinations or is behind in getting them, contact your healthcare provider or The Charlotte County Health Department. If you are planning for your child to begin going to a daycare or school, ask your healthcare provider about required immunizations. The Health Department offers all recommended childhood vaccines at no cost through the federal Vaccines for Children Program. Charlotte County Health Department offers low cost adult vaccines. Call for vaccine availability and to make an appointment at 941-624-7200.