Why We Believe So Strongly In Getting Vaccinated

At Westchester Health, we firmly believe in the importance of vaccinations, for children and adults. Even though some people choose to “opt out” of getting immunized against disease, we recommend to all our patients, now more than ever, that they vaccinate themselves and their families, every year.

Rajiv Punn, MD

Short of basic sanitation and nutrition, no medical intervention has done more to save lives and prevent disease than vaccinations.

According to the World Health Organization, immunizations are the safest and most cost-effective way of preventing disease, disability, death and inequity worldwide. It’s estimated that vaccines annually prevent almost 6 million deaths worldwide. Just in the U.S. alone, there has been a 99% decrease in the top nine diseases for which vaccines have been recommended.

Do vaccines work? Yes.

Vaccines are the best protection we have against many serious diseases. Ever since vaccines were invented, the number of babies and adults who get sick or die from vaccine-preventable diseases has decreased dramatically. In fact, some diseases have been wiped out altogether. As long as diseases are around, people will continue to get sick, which is why it’s so important to get vaccinated.

Are vaccinations safe? Yes.

Before being approved, all vaccines administered in the U.S. must be tested by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA will not allow a vaccine to be given unless it has been proven to be safe and to actually work. Then this data is reviewed again by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Academy of Family Physicians before a vaccine is officially permitted to be administered.

Here is additional information from the FDA website:

Vaccines, as with all products regulated by FDA, undergo a rigorous review of laboratory and clinical data to ensure the safety, efficacy, purity and potency of these products. Vaccines approved for marketing may also be required to undergo additional studies to further evaluate the vaccine and often to address specific questions about the vaccine’s safety, effectiveness or possible side effects.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, vaccines have reduced preventable infectious diseases to an all-time low and now few people experience the devastating effects of measles, pertussis and other illnesses.

The Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research (CBER) regulates vaccine products. Many of these are childhood vaccines that have contributed to a significant reduction of vaccine-preventable diseases.

The FDA also monitors where and how vaccines are made. Laboratories manufacturing vaccines must be licensed and are regularly inspected. Plus, each vaccine lot is safety-tested.

Do vaccinations cause autism? No.

In 1998, a British researcher named Andrew Wakefield published a fraudulent research paper proposing a hypothetical link between the MMR vaccine and autism, a link that has long since been thoroughly debunked. (Because a number of parents believed this now-discredited theory and chose not to immunize their children, an outbreak of measles occurred and many children died.) We’ve actually written several blogs on this subject that we encourage you to read.

Over the last two decades, extensive research has studied whether there is any link between childhood vaccinations and autism. The results of this research are clear: vaccines do not cause autism — all the more reason why at Westchester Health, we strongly advise immunizing yourself and your family.

Herd immunity benefits all of us

Most vaccine-preventable diseases are spread from person to person. When an individual has been vaccinated for a particular disease, he/she is then immune to that disease and cannot infect others. The greater number of people who are vaccinated, the fewer opportunities there are for a disease to spread, and the entire community is less likely to get the disease. This is known as herd, or community, immunity.

When enough people are vaccinated, everyone — including those who are too young or too sick to be immunized — receives some protection from the spread of diseases, even those who are unvaccinated. This means that even people who don’t get vaccinated will have some protection from getting sick. Because of herd immunity, a disease can become rarer and sometimes, disappear altogether.

What would happen if we stopped vaccinating?

Before immunizations, diseases like whooping cough, polio, measles, rubella and the flu affected hundreds of thousands of babies, children and adults in the U.S., killing thousands (even millions in some cases) every year. As vaccines were developed and became widely used, these diseases greatly declined until today, most of them are nearly gone from this country.

Examples of the effectiveness of vaccines

  • In 1921, before there was a vaccine against diphtheria, more than 15,000 Americans died from this preventable disease. Since 2004, only one case of diphtheria has been reported to the CDC.
  • An epidemic of rubella (German measles) in 1964-65 infected 12½ million Americans, killed 2,000 babies and caused 11,000 miscarriages. In 2012, only 9 cases of rubella were reported to the CDC.
  • Before the measles vaccine, there used to be thousands of cases in the U.S. each year. After the development of the vaccine, there were less than 100 in 2000. However, because some parents choose not to vaccinate their children against measles, more than 600 cases were reported in 2014. Now in 2019, we’re seeing a similar outbreak of measles due to parents not vaccinating their children.

Are there side effects from getting a vaccine?

After getting a vaccination, you may experience mild side effects such as swelling, redness or tenderness where the injection was given, but these do not last long. You may also have a slight fever for a short time. It is rare for side effects to be serious, but contact your doctor right away if you have:

  • A very high fever (more than 103°F)
  • Hives or black-and-blue areas at places where the injection was not given
  • A seizure

Vaccines we recommend

To stay healthy, we recommend the following immunizations:

  • Hepatitis A and hepatitis B vaccines: help prevent serious liver diseases
  • Tdap vaccine: helps prevent diphtheria, tetanus (lockjaw) and pertussis (whooping cough)
  • Hibvaccine: helps prevent Haemophilus influenzae type b (a cause of meningitis)
  • Pneumococcal vaccine: helps prevent ear infection, pneumonia, bacterial meningitis and infections of the blood
  • Polio vaccine: helps prevent a crippling viral disease that can cause paralysis
  • Influenza vaccine: helps prevent the flu
  • MMR vaccine: helps prevent measles, mumps and rubella (German measles)
  • Varicella vaccine: helps prevent chickenpox and its many complications, including flesh-eating strep, staph toxic shock and encephalitis (inflammation of the brain)
  • Meningococcal vaccine: helps prevent serious bacterial diseases that affect the blood, brain and spinal cord
  • HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccine: helps prevent viral infections in teens and adults that cause cancers of the mouth and throat, cervix and genitals, as well as genital warts
  • Shingles vaccine: helps prevent shingles, a painful rash that usually develops on one side of the body, the face or torso.

For a list of vaccine-preventable diseases and the vaccines that prevent them, click here.

For a list of CDC recommended vaccines by age, click here.

To learn more about the importance of immunizations:

If you want to know more about the effectiveness and safety of vaccines, please come see us

If you have questions or concerns about the efficacy or safety of vaccines for you and your family, please call (914) 232-1919 to make an appointment with one of our Westchester Health family medicine practitioners. We’ll meet with you, explain our belief in the necessity of vaccines, and make sure all your questions are answered. Whenever, wherever you need us, we’re here for you.

By Rajiv Punn, MD, a Family Medicine practitioner with Westchester Health, member of Northwell Health Physician Partners

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