Vaccines have dramatically changed the landscape of infectious diseases. Thanks to vaccines, diseases such as polio, tetanus, Hib, yellow fever and diphtheria – illnesses that have caused tremendous disability and death in the past (and still do in some parts of the world) – are rarely seen in the U.S. Highly vaccinated populations create “herd” immunity that prevents infections from spreading and helps protects even those who aren’t vaccinated. Dangerous diseases such as the measles are still prevalent in many parts of the world and can be brought to the U.S. by unvaccinated travelers. The increase in cases of whooping cough in recent years and the current measles outbreak in the U.S. are examples of how lower vaccination rates make populations more vulnerable to serious illnesses.
Immunization schedules are designed to protect individuals, especially young children, when they are most vulnerable to disease. Following the recommended vaccine schedule for babies and young children protects them against disease before they are likely to be exposed. Adults also should keep up on their vaccinations. Every year thousands of adults suffer serious illness, are hospitalized and even die from diseases for which vaccines are available, including influenza (flu), Hepatitis A and B, meningococcal disease (meningitis) and HPV – which can lead to cervical cancer. Recommended vaccination guidelines can be found at www.cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules/.
Talk to your healthcare provider about recommended vaccines for yourself and your family. International travel and other situations could make you more susceptible to certain diseases. Do your best to keep track of vaccination records from your healthcare provider, and bring them when you plan to receive a new vaccine. If you are not sure if you have received a vaccine, you may need to get it again. While this is not ideal, it is safe to repeat vaccines.
Immunizations for all ages are available during drop in clinics every Thursday, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Steamboat Springs VNA and 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. at the Craig VNA. You can also make an appointment by calling 970-879-1632 in Steamboat or 970-824-8233 in Craig.
Charity Neal, RN
Director of Public Health, Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association