Vaccinations protect you against serious diseases by stimulating the immune system to create antibodies against certain bacteria or viruses. Not only are vaccines important for children, but adults need to keep up to date on their vaccinations because they are at risk for different diseases as they age and immunity from childhood vaccines can wear off over time.
How do they work?
According to the Centers for Disease Control, when germs, such as bacteria or viruses, invade the body, they attack and multiply. This invasion is called an infection, which is what causes illness. The immune system then has to fight the infection. Once it fights off the infection, the body is left with a supply of cells that help recognize and fight that disease in the future.
Vaccines help develop immunity by imitating an infection, but this "imitation" infection does not cause illness. It does, however, cause the immune system to develop the same response as it does to a real infection so the body can recognize and fight the vaccine-preventable disease in the future. Sometimes, after getting a vaccine, the imitation infection can cause minor symptoms, such as fever. Such minor symptoms are normal and should be expected as the body builds immunity.
Are they safe?
While there is a lot of talk about the safety of vaccines in the news, vaccines are indeed safe. According to the Immunization Action Coalition (IAC), every vaccine undergoes extensive testing and their safety is monitored continuously during use. Most side effects from vaccination are minor, such as soreness where the injection was given or a low-grade fever, and their effects are temporary and treatable. Serious reactions are very rare, so the tiny risk of a serious reaction from a vaccination has to be weighed against the very real risk of getting a vaccine-preventable disease.
Are there other means of protection against these diseases?
The IAC notes that, while breastfeeding provides some immunity against some minor infections, it isn’t effective in protecting a child from the specific diseases prevented by vaccines. In addition, vitamins, chiropractic remedies, naturopathy and homeopathy have been shown to be ineffective in preventing vaccine-preventable diseases.
What vaccines do I need?
How can I keep track of immunization records?
The Wisconsin Immunization Registry
contains a record of all vaccinations an individual receives throughout their lifetime. You can access your records or your child’s by entering the first name, last name, date of birth and either the individual’s social security number, Medicaid ID or Health Care Member ID.
For more information about vaccinations, talk to your doctor or visit www.cdc.gov/vaccines/