If you are the parent of a young child, you may be confused about the safety of immunizations. You may have heard that vaccines cause life-threatening side effects or can lead to other diseases. Or you may have read that vaccines are not necessary anymore.
"Many of these myths are perpetuated on the Internet," says Robert S. Baltimore, M.D., a pediatric infectious disease specialist in New Haven, Conn., and spokesman for the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). "In some cases, it's been a problem of educating people. Numerous papers and studies have backed up the safety and success of vaccines."
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With all the media attention on the new crop of "killer viruses," it's easy to forget that some of the most devastating bugs ever to plague humankind have been wiped out.
Consider smallpox. The last laboratory samples sit under lock and key in frozen vials in Atlanta and Russia. But two centuries ago, just before an English country doctor named Edward Jenner stepped forward to attack it, smallpox killed people by the thousands.
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Immunization is key to preventing disease among the general population. Vaccines benefit both the people who receive them, and the vulnerable, unvaccinated people around them, because the infection can no longer spread. In addition, immunizations reduce the number of deaths and disability from infections, such as measles, whooping cough, and chickenpox.
Although children receive the majority of the vaccinations, adults also need to stay up-to-date on certain vaccinations, including varicella, seasonal influenza, tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough), measles, mumps, rubella, zoster, human papillomavirus (HPV in females), pneumococcal (polysaccharide), hepatitis A and B, flu, and meningococcal. Childhood illnesses such as mumps, measles, and chickenpox can cause serious complications in adults.
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Immunizations aren't just for children. Adults need immunizations, too.
Although children receive the majority of the vaccinations, adults also need to stay up-to-date on certain vaccinations, including tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough), measles, mumps, rubella, varicella, zoster, human papillomavirus (HPV) in females, pneumococcal (polysaccharide), hepatitis A and B, flu, and meningococcal. Immunizations are important for adults as well as for children. Here's why: Adults who have never received childhood vaccinations can experience serious complications from these diseases as an adult. Vaccines contain dead or weakened germs that trigger the immune system to respond and build immunity. Ask your doctor which of the following shots you may need.
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Before traveling to any destination outside the United States, it is important to review your vaccination schedule with your physician. This should be done as far in advance as possible so that any special vaccinations can be scheduled and administered. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that persons planning to travel review the vaccines below with their physician before travel begins.
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