August is Immunization Awareness Month

Many adults know someone disabled by Rubella (German Measles) that their mother contracted while pregnant, or by polio. Today this is less common because of vaccines.

History of Vaccines

Edward Jenner introduced the first vaccine in 1796. Using the widely known idea that dairymaids did not contract smallpox if they had already had cowpox, Jenner injected a young boy with the cowpox virus. The boy got sick with the disease. Three months later, Jenner injected the same boy with the smallpox virus. The boy did not catch the much more serious, often deadly disease. Before vaccination, smallpox killed nearly 30% of people who contracted the disease. Today, the disease no longer exists because of a worldwide vaccination campaign.

Importance of Vaccines

While smallpox is the only eradicated human disease, vaccines have helped to eliminate many diseases from certain geographic areas. It is still important to continue to vaccinate against these diseases, especially with the ease of global travel. Measles, the most contagious of all diseases, had been eliminated in the United States in 2000, but reintroduced and in 2019, the United States had 1,292 cases.
Vaccines are important for “herd-immunity.” People most vulnerable to many diseases are often unable to get the vaccine. This includes people who are very young, elderly, medically fragile, or immune-compromised. One example is Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, which is most dangerous to infants. The vaccine for Pertussis is not safe to give to a child until they are 2 months old, and the immunization is not complete until the fifth shot at age seven. Most infants who die from whooping cough catch the virus from an adult.
Vaccines protect more than just the person being vaccinated in other ways as well. In the past, many infants were born deaf, with heart defects, liver and spleen damage, or intellectual disabilities because their mothers had Rubella during pregnancy. Children whose parents received the vaccine as children did not endure these birth defects.
Vaccine-preventable diseases can be costly. Besides medical bills for the initial disease, the cost can include:

  • Long-term disabilities.
  • Loss of work and income. Hepatitis A patients can miss up to a month of work.
  • Infected children being denied entrance into school or daycare, costing parents time off work.

Back to School

Getting ready to return to school each fall is an ideal time to review your child’s immunization records with their doctor. The State of Texas requires school students to have the following vaccines at various ages:
  • Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis ((DTaP/Tdap)
  • Polio
  • Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR)
  • Hepatitis B
  • Varicella (chickenpox)
  • Meningococcal
  • Hepatitis A
Whether you need a Tdap or Covid booster, or are sending your child back to school, make August the time to update your family’s vaccinations.