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During World Immunization Week 2023, we raise awareness about the importance of vaccines, which have saved millions of lives over the decades.
Your child’s pediatrician will have a list of which vaccines they need to be protected against a variety of illnesses.
Even if you have already had the primary COVID-19 vaccine, it’s important to get the latest booster.
During the 1950s, large hospital wards in the United States were filled with patients on respirators — all of whom were suffering the devastating effects of a polio outbreak. Today, that concept is foreign to us, thanks to the polio vaccine, which has nearly eliminated the disease in our country.
Vaccines teach your body’s immune system to recognize and defend against viruses and bacteria that cause infectious diseases. They protect you and the people around you by slowing down or even stopping the spread of disease. Experts estimate that vaccines (sometimes called immunizations) help prevent almost 6 million deaths worldwide every year.
The World Health Organization has declared the last week of April as World Immunization Week 2023 to raise awareness about the importance of vaccines. Take a few minutes to learn about this important topic and talk to your doctor if you have questions or need to “catch up” on your shots.
Immunizations for children
Babies and young children need to be vaccinated according to a schedule to gain maximum protection from infectious illnesses. The most common childhood vaccines include:
- Tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (Tdap)
- Hepatitis B (HepB)
- Measles, mumps and rubella (MMR)
- Poliovirus (IPV)
- Chicken pox, or varicella (VAR)
Children who stay on schedule with these vaccines complete their shots (more or less) by the age of 6. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and pediatricians also recommend other vaccines throughout childhood, including during the teen years.
One of those vaccines is the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine. The first dose of this vaccine is typically given to 11- or 12-year-olds, and the second dose is 6 to 12 months later. Almost every unvaccinated person who is sexually active will get HPV at some point in their life. While most infections will go away on their own, HPV can still cause cancers of the cervix, vagina and vulva in women; penis in men; anus in both men and women, and back of the throat in both men and women. The vaccine is given during childhood to ensure that people are protected before they become sexually active.
Getting children caught up on their shots
Many families fall behind on their children’s shots. The good news is that catching up is not difficult. In fact, you may be able to do it in a single visit to the pediatrician’s office.
If a lack of health insurance or concerns about health care costs prevent you from getting your child caught up, know that free or low-cost vaccines are available. Look at your county health department’s website to see where they offer no-cost vaccines. The federal government’s Vaccines for Children Program is another helpful resource.
Vaccine safety during pregnancy
The CDC recommends that women obtain certain vaccines during pregnancy to help protect both themselves and their baby. In particular, they should have the Tdap vaccine to protect against whooping cough, and the flu shot to guard against the possibility of a dangerous bout with the flu. Studies have found that both vaccines are completely safe for pregnant women.
Some live virus vaccines, however, are not safe to be administered during pregnancy, such as MMR and chickenpox. If they were not given in childhood, they should be administered either before or after pregnancy.
The COVID-19 vaccine has only been available for a little more than two years, so there is limited data about how it affects pregnant women. However, the limited information collected on this vaccine indicates it is safe for people who are pregnant.
Immunizations for adults
Vaccinations aren’t just for kids and pregnant women! Adults ages 19 and older need to get their shots, too. The body’s immune system becomes less efficient as we age, particularly in our later years.
Vaccines are available to adults for a wide range of conditions. With few exceptions, all adults should get the following vaccines:
Based on their health and immunization history, some adults should be vaccinated against hepatitis A and hepatitis B, too.
Updated COVID-19 vaccine booster
There are now four different COVID-19 vaccines, including primary series and boosters, recommended in the United States. Even if you already had the primary series of vaccines, the CDC recommends that you stay up to date with the latest booster. The disease is always changing, and so, too, are the vaccines.
You are still considered fully vaccinated if you have not gotten a booster, but you may still be at risk for becoming seriously ill with COVID-19. You can learn more about the latest recommendations for COVID-19 vaccines on the CDC website, and find a vaccination location near you.
Vaccines save lives. This World Immunization Week, talk to your doctor about whether you have all the vaccines you need.
Find a doctor
If you want to learn more about immunizations for you or your family, you can find a Providence primary care provider using our provider directory.
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This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional’s instructions.
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