Immunizations save lives. They are the best way to help protect
you or your child from certain infectious diseases. They also help reduce the spread of disease to
others and prevent epidemics. Most are given as shots. They are sometimes
called vaccines, or vaccinations.
In many cases when you get a
vaccine, you get a tiny amount of a weakened or dead form of the organism that
causes the disease. This amount is not enough to give you the actual disease.
But it is enough to cause your
immune system to make
antibodies that can recognize and attack the organism
if you are ever exposed to it.
Every fall, millions of U.S. children get flu vaccinations at their pediatricians' offices. The CDC recommends an annual flu vaccine for all Americans who are at least 6 months old.
You may have questions about the vaccination. Why can't last year's flu shot protect your child this year? Do you need to get her a separate vaccine for protection against the H1N1 strain? Should you request the vaccination in nasal spray rather than injection form?
For guidance, WebMD spoke with internist Lisa Grohskopf,...
Sometimes a vaccine does not
completely prevent the disease, but it will make the disease much less serious
if you do get it.
Some immunizations are needed only one time.
Others require several doses over time to help your body be able to fight the disease (build immunity).
What are some reasons to get immunized?
Immunizations protect you or your child from dangerous
They help reduce the spread of disease to others.
They are often needed for entrance into school or day care. And
they may be needed for employment or for travel to another country.
Getting immunized costs less than getting treated for the
diseases that the shots protect you from.
The risk of getting a
disease is much greater than the risk of having a serious reaction to the vaccine.
When immunization rates drop below a certain level, preventable diseases show up again. Often, these diseases are hard to treat. For example, measlesoutbreaks still occur in the U.S.
If you are a woman who is planning to get pregnant, talk
to your doctor about what immunizations you have had and what you may need to
protect your baby. And if you live with a pregnant woman, make sure your
vaccines are up-to-date.
Traveling to other countries may be
another reason to get immunized. Talk with your doctor months before
you leave, to see if you need any shots.