Immunization has been called the most important public health intervention in history, after safe drinking water. It has saved millions of lives over the years and prevented hundreds of millions of cases of disease.
We all know that getting our children immunized can protect them from some very serious diseases. But getting immunized also:
- Protects our children’s friends, schoolmates, and others from those same diseases. For example, some children can’t get certain vaccines for medical reasons, or some children are not able to respond to certain vaccines. For these children, the immunity of people around them is their only protection.
- Protects future generations from diseases. If we stopped vaccinating today, diseases that are under control would eventually come back to cause epidemics.
- Helps rid the world of diseases that have been crippling and killing children for centuries. Vaccines have allowed us to eradicate smallpox. Today polio is nearly gone, and in the future measles and other diseases will follow.
- It will cost approximately $1486 to fully immunize your child (based on cost of vaccines). The Immunization Clinic located at the Department of Public Health will provide these vaccines free of charge.
WHAT IS IMMUNITY?
When disease germs enter your body, they start to reproduce. Your immune system recognizes these germs as foreign invaders and responds by making proteins called antibodies. These antibodies’ first job is to help destroy the germs that are making you sick. They can’t act fast enough to prevent you from becoming sick, but by eliminating the attacking germs, antibodies help you to get well.
The antibodies’ second job is to protect you from future infections. They remain in your bloodstream, and if the same germs ever try to infect you again - even after many years - they will come to your defense. Only now that they are experienced at fighting these particular germs, they can destroy them before they have a chance to make you sick. This is immunity. It is why most people get diseases like measles or chickenpox only once, even though they might be exposed many times during their lifetime. This is a good system for preventing disease. The only drawback is obvious - you have to get sick before you become immune.
VACCINES SOLVE THIS PROBLEM - THEY HELP YOU DEVELOP IMMUNITY WITHOUT GETTING SICK FIRST
Vaccines are made from the same germs (or parts of them) that cause disease - measles vaccine is made from measles virus, for instance, and Haemophilus influenzae type B (Hib) vaccine is made from parts of the Hib bacteria. But the germs in vaccines are either killed or weakened so they won’t make you sick.
Vaccines containing these weakened or killed germs are introduced into your body. Your immune system reacts to the vaccine the same as it would if it were being invaded by the disease - by making antibodies. The antibodies destroy the vaccine germs just as they would the disease germs - like a training exercise. Then they stay in your body, giving you immunity. If you are ever exposed to the real disease, the antibodies are there to protect you.
Immunizations help your child’s immune system do its work. Except with vaccines your child doesn’t have to get sick first to get the protection!
WHY WE VACCINATE – THE PURPOSE OF IMMUNIZATIONS
The purpose of immunizations is to prevent disease. Today, children in the CNMI routinely get vaccines that protect them from 14 diseases. All of these diseases have, at one time or another, been a serious threat to children around the world. Most of them are now at their lowest levels in history, thanks to years of immunization.
Because we don’t see these diseases every day they might not seem as scary as they used to. Some of them might not even be familiar to many parents. Fifty years ago, measles was one of the most common diseases in the country - virtually every child got it. But today, most parents will never know a child with measles; in fact, most doctors will never see a case.
But measles still infects about 23 million people around the world every year and kills about 480,000 of them. An infected person can travel to the United States, and we can travel anywhere in the world. A single case of disease will remain a single case if everyone around the infected person is immune. If they are not, a single case can turn into an epidemic. By vaccinating we will make sure these 14 diseases will not become everyday events for our children ever again.
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis B
- Hib disease (Haemophilus influenzae type b)
- Influenza (Flu)
- Pertussis (Whooping Cough)
- Pneumococcal Disease
- Rubella (German Measles)
- Tetanus (Lockjaw)
- Varicella (Chickenpox)
WHY DO CHILDREN NEED SO MANY SHOTS?
Some of us may have gotten only 3 vaccines as children: DTP, polio, and smallpox. There were no childrens immunizations for measles, chickenpox, mumps, and other diseases - which meant that many of us also got those diseases! Over the years scientists have developed vaccines against more diseases, and we give them to our children to protect them from those diseases. Children don’t get smallpox vaccine anymore because we have eradicated the disease. Within our lifetimes, we may also eradicate polio, and then that vaccine too will no longer be needed. More combination vaccines may also reduce the number of shots children will need. At the same time, vaccines may be developed to protect us against even more diseases.
WHY ARE VACCINES GIVEN AT SUCH AN EARLY AGE?
Vaccines are given at an early age because the diseases they prevent can strike at an early age. Some diseases are far more serious or common among infants or young children. For example, up to 60% of severe disease caused by Haemophilus influenzae type b occurs in children under 12 months of age. Of children under 6 months of age who get pertussis, 72% must be hospitalized, and 84% of all deaths from pertussis are among children less than 6 months of age. The ages at which vaccines are recommended are not arbitrary. They are chosen to give children the earliest and best protection against disease.
WHAT IF MY CHILD MISSES A DOSE OF VACCINE?
They can continue the series where they left off. Vaccinations do not have to be repeated when there is a longer-than-recommended interval between doses.
The DPH immunization program focuses its efforts towards vaccinating all children in the CNMI from birth to age 18. It's important for all people, from infants to adults to get immunized because vaccines are among the most successful and cost-effective ways to prevent disease and death. They not only help protect vaccinated individuals, but also help protect entire communities by preventing and reducing the spread of infectious diseases. Infants are particularly vulnerable to infectious diseases; that is why it is critical to protect them through immunization. Babies can be immunized against 14 vaccine-preventable diseases by age two. Immunization is extremely safe. Vaccines are thoroughly tested before being approved for public use and monitored carefully by doctors, researchers and public health officials. By preventing disease, vaccines reduce costs associated with missed time from school, work, doctor visits, and hospitalizations.
The five Important Reasons to Immunize Your Child:
- Immunizations can save your child’s life.
- Vaccination is safe and effective.
- Immunization protects others you care about.
- Immunizations can save your family time and money.
- Immunization protects future generations.
It's also important for all people, from infants to adults to get immunized because vaccines are among the most successful and cost-effective ways to prevent disease and death. They not only help protect vaccinated individuals, but also help protect entire communities by preventing and reducing the spread of infectious diseases.
Infants are particularly vulnerable to infectious diseases; that is why it is critical to protect them through immunization. Babies can be immunized against 14 vaccine-preventable diseases by age two.
Immunization is one of the best ways parents can protect their children against serious diseases. Because of the success of vaccines in preventing disease, parents often are unaware that their children are at risk for so many serious and life-threatening diseases.
IMMUNIZATION IS EXTREMELY SAFE
Vaccines are thoroughly tested before being approved for public use and monitored carefully by doctors, researchers and public health officials. By preventing disease, vaccines reduce costs associated with missed time from work, doctor visits, and hospitalizations.
We offer all vaccines on the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) for children from birth to age 18. These vaccines are Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, DTap, E-IPV, Hib, PCV-13, Rotavirus, MMR, Varicella, and HPV. All children should remain up to date with their shots following the immunization schedule on their shot card/immunization record. Seasonal influenza vaccine should be taken annually.
Vaccines aren’t just for children. Many adults become ill, are disabled, or die each year from diseases that are easily preventable through immunization. From young adults to senior citizens everyone benefits from proper immunization.
Descriptions of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases
The following is a list of diseases that can be prevented by immunization, some immunizations are vital for most adults, especially senior citizens, while others are appropriate for only specific segment of the population.
VACCINE PREVENTABLE ADULT DISEASES
Diptheria: A respiratory disease caused by bacteria
Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib): A severe bacterial infection, occurring primarily in infants and children under 5 years
Hepatitis A : A disease of the liver caused by the hepatitis A virus (HAV)
Hepatitis B : A disease of the liver caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV)
Herpes Zoster (Shingles): Shingles is a painful skin rash caused by the varicella zoster virus (VZV)
Human Papillomavirus (Hpv) : A type of virus that invades the cervical cells
Influenza - Flu: Highly infectious virus illness
Measles : A respiratory disease caused by a virus
Meningococcal: A severe bacterial infection that can cause meningitis, bloodstream infection, and other localized infections
Mumps: A disease of the parotid salivary glands caused by a virus
Pertussis (whooping cough): A respiratory disease caused by bacteria
Pneumococcus: Pneumococcal pneumonia
Polio: A viral disease of the nervous system
Rubella - German Measles: An acute viral disease that causes fever and rash
Tetanus (Lockjaw): A disease of the nervous system caused by bacteria
Varicella (Chicken Pox): A viral disease that causes an itchy rash
Especially Serious Diseases for Adults age 65 or older: Diphtheria, Influenza (flu), Pneumococcal, Tetanus (lockjaw).
PNEUMONIA VACCINE – WHY IMMUNIZE?
Pneumococcal disease is the cause of severe illnesses and even death; it kills more people in the United State each year than all other vaccine-preventable diseases combined. Everyone is susceptible to pneumococcal disease; however, some people are at greater risk from this illness. The at-risk population includes: seniors 65 and older, the very young, as well as those with health issues including alcoholism, heart or lung disease, kidney failure, diabetes, HIV infections, and certain types of cancer.
Pneumococcal disease can lead to serious infections of the lungs (pneumonia), the blood (bacteremia), and the covering of the brain (meningitis). Some statistics:
People with health issues (as mentioned above) are at even greater risk to die from this disease. Drugs (e.g. penicillin) once so effective in treating these infections are now at a disadvantage as this illness becomes more drug resistant. Immunization now plays a key role in prevention of this disease.
Pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPV)
The pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPV) protects against 23 types of pneumococcal bacteria.
Most healthy adults who receive immunization develop protection to most or all of these types within two to three weeks of receiving the shot. The at-risk population includes seniors, children under 2 years of age, and those with certain long-term illnesses.
Who should receive PPV immunization?
Adults - 65 years of age or older and those who have a long-term health issue such as:
- Heart Disease
- Lung Disease
- Sickle Cell Disease
- Leaks of Cerebrospinal Fluid