TRUE or FALSE?
· Vaccines may cause autism – we don't know for sure.
· Flu shots are overrated and sometimes actually cause people to get the flu.
· Immunizations contain toxic chemicals that lead to brain damage in children.
· Vaccines can trigger immune reactions that often cause autoimmune diseases like MS.
· Vaccines are a government conspiracy to create profits for pharmaceutical companies.
FALSE, FALSE, FALSE!
Immunizations are one of the most important advances in public health of all time. Immunizations save lives, reduce hospitalizations and overall health care costs, and improve quality of life. With rare exceptions, they are safe and well-tolerated. The evidence is clear that they do NOT cause autism or brain damage. The risk – if any - of vaccines triggering an autoimmune disease such as MS is very low and outweighed, in almost every case, by the benefits of immunization. Making sure you stay up-to-date with your vaccines is one of the most important ways to stay healthy.
Of course, always consult with your doctor about which vaccines are indicated for you. Live vaccines are not recommended for people on certain MS medications, for example. The National MS Society also provides excellent guidance on their website. Depending on your age and other risk factors, these are the most common immunizations that are recommended:
1) Influenza: Flu shots should be given to virtually everyone, at every age, every year. The flu shot takes about two weeks to kick in, and mild side effects can occur. But flu shots do not cause the flu, and only rarely are they contraindicated. Flu shots are safe, and they save lives and prevent hospitalizations. Did I mention flu shots do NOT cause the flu? The CDC is a great source of additional info.
2) HPV: HPV vaccine helps reduce the risk of many types of human papilloma virus (HPV) infection, which is responsible for nearly all cases of cervical cancer and genital warts. HPV also can cause cancer of the throat, vagina, vulva, and anus. HPV vaccination is recommended to all girls and boys beginning at 11-12 years old and to men to age 21 and women to age 26. It dramatically cuts the risk of HPV infection and, therefore, HPV-associated cancers. Last fall (Oct. 2018), the FDA approved use of the vaccine for both men and women up to age 45, though studies of effectiveness in this older age group are ongoing.
3) Shingrix: Hurray for Shingrix! Shingrix is the new shingles vaccine, just released in 2017. It is far more effective than the previous vaccine (Zostavax) at preventing shingles and especially its dreaded and painful complication, post-herpetic neuralgia. The CDC estimates that about 1 million people get shingles each year, and about 15% of them continue to have pain two years later. The Shingrix vaccine, recommended for adults beginning at age 50, is a series of two vaccines, separated by two to six months. It is more than 90% effective at preventing shingles.
4) Td and Tdap: Td is a tetanus booster shot, and Tdap is a combination vaccine designed to protect us against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis. Rates of tetanus (an often fatal infection caused by spores of bacteria in dirt and animal feces) have fallen >95% since the 1947, largely due to the success of the vaccine. However, sporadic cases still occur. Those who are not vaccinated or have failed to get the recommended booster shots have a higher risk of infection. Pertussis, or whooping cough, is generally more of an annoyance to older children and adults, but it is a particular concern for very young infants, who can die from pertussis. By vaccinating adults - especially those who have contact with infants - we help create herd immunity and protect infants from what can be a dangerous infection.
5) Pneumonia: Pneumonia continues to be a leading cause of hospitalization and death among older adults. An estimated 900,000 people get pneumococcal pneumonia each year, resulting in as many as 400,000 hospitalizations and 19,000 deaths. For adults, two different pneumonia vaccines are available (PPSV23 and PCV13). Each protects recipients against different strains of pneumococcal bacterial infection. The vaccines are recommended for all adults at age 65, but may be given earlier depending on other risk factors (such as having diabetes, asthma, heart disease, cancer, or being a smoker). They cannot stop all forms of pneumonia, but they cut the risk significantly and save lives.
The adult vaccine schedule has become more complicated over the years. (I think the two pneumonia shots are especially confusing!) But your doctor can help determine which immunizations you need. And you should keep track of your immunizations and help remind your friends and family members get their recommended vaccines as well.