August was National Immunization Awareness Month, (NIAM) which according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), highlights the importance of vaccination for people of all ages.
Communities around the nation used the month to raise awareness about the important role vaccines play in preventing diseases that are both serious and deadly.
Since their manifestation, vaccinations and immunizations have eradicated smallpox, eliminated wild poliovirus in the United States and significantly reduced the number of cases of measles and other diseases.
Currently, the debate over vaccinations and immunizations is heated on both sides. Some people believe that these methods are simply placebo effects of the human mind. This means that if people think they are receiving a vaccination to protect them from a disease, their body will respond to this belief and fight off the disease. However, this theory has time and again been debunked by the facts and statistics on vaccinations and immunizations. For example, according the North Georgia Health District, “Before the varicella vaccine, almost every child in the United States (roughly 4 million annually) contracted the chicken pox.”
Personally, I would find it quite miraculous if a placebo vaccination was able to eradicate a disease entirely.
Just because NIAM has ended doesn’t mean that you should let your guard down, especially with flu season right around the corner. According to the North Georgia Health District, “Each year on average, more than 36,000 people die from seasonal flu complications.” Furthermore, “90 percent of these deaths are in persons 65 years of age and older.”
According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, “In the US, 80-90 percent of deaths during the influenza epidemics occur in the elderly. The rates of hospitalization and death are increasing as the population ages.”
Although immunization and vaccination are important for all ages, across the board, they are especially vital for the elderly. The North Georgia Health District and the National Center for Biotechnology aren’t the only sources that would agree.
Vaccines.gov highlights this fact. “As you get older, your immune system starts to weaken and it can be more difficult to fight off infections.” In addition, the website states that people who are 65 and older are more likely to get diseases such as the flu, pneumonia and shingles.
In an article written by Phil Galewitz of Kaiser Health news, Kaiser explains how many people act too late when it comes to getting vaccinated, leaving them to experience the harsh consequences of a disease. Only after this experience do they understand the importance of getting the shot.
“It’s amazing how once people see the disease up close, getting the vaccine suddenly raises up on their list of priorities,” said Dr. Robert Wergin, a source that was used in the article published on PBS.
In the case of shingles, the side effects are miserable. Rashes cover the face and body. Stinging pain occurs that will last for weeks, or even worse, months. There is even a possibility of blindness in the more serious stages of the disease.
Risking the ability to see is not a worthy cost of not getting a vaccine. My point is that no one should have to go through these painful experiences, especially when they can be prevented so simply.
For this reason, it is also important to recognize that getting a vaccination may not completely defend you from that specific disease, however it will allow your body to combat the illness more effectively when it does arrive, preventing serious complications from happening. This is especially true when it comes to people who are 65 or older. This means that although someone may still contract shingles after being vaccinated, the shot will help them combat the horrible side effects that were mentioned earlier.
So go out and get vaccinated. It can only help you.