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    Vaccines (immunizations) - overview

    Vaccinations

    Vaccines are used to improve your immune system and prevent serious, life-threatening diseases.

    Information

    HOWVACCINES WORK

    Vaccines"teach" your body how to defend itself when germs, such as viruses or bacteria, invade it:

    • They expose you to a very small, very safe amount of viruses or bacteria that have been weakened or killed.
    • Your immune system then learns to recognize and attack the infection if you are exposed to it later in life.
    • As a result, you will not become ill or you mayhave a milder infection. This is a natural way to deal with infectious diseases.

    Four types of vaccines are currently available:

    • Live virus vaccines use the weakened (or attenuated) form of the virus. The measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine and the varicella (chickenpox) vaccine are examples.
    • Killed (inactivated) vaccines are made from a protein or other small pieces taken from a virus or bacteria.The fluvaccineis an example.
    • Toxoid vaccines contain a toxin or chemical made by the bacteria or virus. They make you immune to the harmful effects of the infection, instead of to the infection itself. Examples are the diphtheria and tetanus vaccines.
    • Biosynthetic vaccines contain manmade substances that are very similar to pieces of the virus or bacteria. The Hib (Haemophilus influenzae type B) conjugate vaccine isan example.

    WHY WE NEED VACCINES

    For a few weeks after they are born, babies have some protection from germs that cause diseases. This protection is passed from their mother through the placenta before birth. After a short period, this natural protection goes away.

    Vaccines help protect against many diseases that used to be much more common. Examples include tetanus, diphtheria, mumps, measles, pertussis (whooping cough), meningitis, and polio. Many of these infections can cause serious or life-threatening illnesses and may lead to lifelong disabilities. Because of vaccines, many of these illnesses are now rare.

    SAFETY OF VACCINES

    Some people worry that vaccines are not safe and may be harmful, especially for children. They may ask their health care provider to wait or even choose not to have the vaccine. But the benefits of vaccines far outweigh their risks.

    Scientific studies have shown that vaccines and their components, such as the preservative thimerosal,do not cause autism or ADHD. Based on these studies, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as the Institute of Medicine conclude that the benefits of vaccines outweigh their risks.

    Other information about risks:

    • Getting the actualinfection from vaccines: Unless a person's immune system is weakened, it is unlikely that a vaccine will give the person the infection. Vaccines, such as the measles, mumps, rubella, the chickenpox,andnasal spray flu contain live but weakened viruses and should not be received by persons with weakened immune systems.
    • Allergic reactions:Such reactions are rare and are usually to some part (component) of the vaccine.
    • Danger of live vaccines: Certain live vaccinesmay be dangerous to the fetus of a pregnant woman. These include the measles, mumps, rubella vaccine, the chickenpox vaccine, and the nasal spray flu vaccine. To avoid harm to the baby, pregnant women should not receive any of these vaccines. The health care provider can tell you the right time to get these vaccines.

    VACCINE SCHEDULE

    The recommended vaccination (immunization) schedule is updated every 12 months by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Talk to your health care provider about specific immunizations for you or your child. Current recommendations are available at the CDC website: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules.

    TRAVELERS

    The CDC website (http://www.cdc.gov/travel/page/vaccinations.htm) has detailed information on immunizations and other precautions for travelers to other countries. Many immunizations should bereceived at leastone month before travel.

    Bringyour immunization records with you when you travel internationally. Some countries require this documentation.

    COMMON IMMUNIZATIONS

    • Chickenpox - vaccine
    • DTaP immunization (vaccine)
    • Hepatitis A vaccine
    • Hepatitis B vaccine
    • Hib - vaccine
    • HPV vaccine
    • Influenza vaccine
    • Meningococcal vaccine
    • MMR - vaccine
    • Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine
    • Pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine
    • Polio immunization (vaccine)
    • Rotavirus vaccine
    • Tdap vaccine
    • Tetanus - vaccine

    References

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) Recommended Immunization Schedules for Persons Aged 0 Through 18 Years and Adults Aged 19 Years and Older- United States, 2013. MMWR. 2013;62(Suppl1):1-19.

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Vaccine safety and adverse events. Available at http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vac-gen/safety/default.htm. Accessed April 19, 2013.

    DeStefano F, Price CS, Weintraub ES. Increasing exposure to antibody-stimulating proteins and polysaccharides in vaccines is not associated with risk of autism. J Pediatr. 2013; DOI10.1016/j.peds.2013.02.001.

    Institute of Medicine. Immunization Safety Review Committee. Imunization Safety Review: Vaccines and Autism. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press; 2004.

    Orenstein WA, Atkinson WL. Immunization. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 17.

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    • Hepatitis A immunization...

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    • Immunizations

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      A Closer Look

        Self Care

          Review Date: 2/21/2013

          Reviewed By: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.

          The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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