San Juan, PR – National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM) is an annual observance held in August to highlight the benefits of vaccination for people of all ages. As part of our unrelenting commitment to providing a better way in healthcare, Abarca supports the importance of vaccines for disease prevention and building a culture of preparedness.
Vaccines work with your body’s natural defenses to help you safely develop immunity to certain diseases, or significantly reduce your chances of developing infections that at one time readily killed or harmed infants, children, and adults. However, the viruses and bacteria that cause these diseases still exist and pose a threat to those who are not vaccinated.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), thousands of American adults become ill each year from diseases that vaccines can prevent. For example, in the case of patients with respiratory diseases such as asthma or COPD, vaccines are an essential step in protecting them from serious diseases like influenza and pneumonia.
In fact, the CDC reports that chronic lung disease was one of the most commonly reported underlying medical conditions among adults who were hospitalized with laboratory-confirmed influenza during the 2016-2017 flu season. Less than half of adults under age 65 with asthma and COPD get the vaccines they need to protect them against influenza and pneumococcal disease.
One of the most common reasons for low vaccination rates is misinformation about the vaccines themselves, causing some people to decide not to immunize, and putting them and others at greater risk for illness, or even death. Rightly so, many people have questions about the effects of vaccines, and are fearful that they will get the actual illness they are meant to prevent.
However, contrary to this misinformed belief, science proves that it is not possible to catch disease from any vaccine made with dead bacteria or viruses. Only immunizations made from weakened live viruses could possibly cause a person to develop a mild form of an infection, though in a form much less severe than becoming infected with the virus itself.
“Some vaccines may cause mild fever or soreness at the injection site, but serious reactions are extremely rare. Even babies can handle far more germs than what they receive from vaccines. In fact, the amount of germs in vaccines is just a small percentage of the germs babies’ immune systems deal with every day. It is true that a person’s chance of catching an infection is low if everyone else is immunized for it. However, there is no reliable way of knowing if every person you come in contact with has been vaccinated, particularly now that so many travel to and from other countries so frequently,” states David Capó, Clinical Epidemiologist at Abarca.
Further, safety concerns could potentially be considered the biggest reason behind vaccine hesitancy. For the most part, these concerns are also based on misinformation that parents come across in the media or through word of mouth, making it difficult for them to come to their own well-informed decisions.
Perhaps the most famous example of this was six years ago when a doctor published a report in the Lancet claiming the link between autism and vaccines (specifically the MMR vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella). This study made vague conclusions that were not based on statistically valid data and so was soon renounced by the Lancet. Reports of this kind can cause parents to completely refuse vaccine administration, without receiving the proper education.
Moreover, the types of vaccinations a person needs are based on age, health conditions, job, lifestyle, or travel habits. In particular, some vaccines are recommended or required for the U.S. and Puerto Rico. The CDC and WHO recommend the following: hepatitis A, hepatitis B, typhoid, rabies, meningitis, polio, measles, mumps and rubella (MMR), Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis), chickenpox, shingles, pneumonia, and influenza.
Immunizations are one of the best ways to protect you and your loved ones against infections and disease, keeping in mind that the risks associated with vaccines are small when compared to the consequences of contracting the diseases they are intended to prevent.
Abarca’s participation in National Immunization Awareness Month is part of our ongoing commitment in providing a better experience for the patients we serve by supporting community organizations that make health services more accessible and by bringing awareness to preventive measures available to the public. We feel such preparedness is of even greater importance after witnessing the state of health in several southern states after the 2017 hurricanes.
Learn more about vaccines recommended for you and your family with this Interactive Vaccine Guide provided by the CDC and talk to your healthcare professional about which vaccines are right for you.