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Importance of Immunizations


Topic Overview

An overwhelming majority of health professionals, medical researchers, and professional medical organizations (such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Family Practice Physicians) recommend immunization. Getting immunized is important for at least two reasons: to protect yourself and to protect those around you. Vaccines are the best way we have to prevent infectious disease. A successful immunization program depends on the cooperation of every person.

  • Vaccinations prevent you or your child from getting diseases for which there are often no medical treatments. These illnesses can result in serious complications and even death.
  • A small number of people may be susceptible to diseases, such as those with impaired immune systems. These people may not be able to get vaccinations or may not develop immunity even after having been vaccinated. Their only protection against certain diseases is for others to get vaccinated so the illnesses are less common.
  • Getting immunized costs less than getting treated for the diseases that the shots protect you from.
  • If exposure to a disease occurs in a community, there is little to no risk of an epidemic if people have been immunized.

Improved sanitation, hygiene, and other living conditions have created a generally healthier environment and reduced the risks for disease exposure and infection in the United States. But the dramatic and long-term decrease of diseases is primarily a result of widespread immunizations throughout the U.S. population.

Even though some diseases, such as polio, rarely affect people in the U.S., all of the recommended childhood immunizations and booster vaccines are still needed. These diseases still exist in other countries. Travelers can unknowingly bring these diseases into the U.S. and infect people who have not been immunized. Without the protection from immunizations, these diseases could be imported and could quickly spread through the population, causing epidemics. Nonimmunized people living in healthy conditions are not protected from disease. Your body's immune system can fight a disease better and faster if you have had the infection before or if you get immunized.

Related Information

Credits

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerJohn Pope, MD - Pediatrics
Specialist Medical ReviewerWilliam Atkinson, MD, MPH - Public Health and Preventive Medicine
Last RevisedFebruary 16, 2012

eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise

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