WORLD IMMUNIZATION WEEK
April 24-30, 2021
Examples range from what is generally considered childhood diseases such as polio and measles, to diseases such as influenza and pertussis (whooping cough) that affect people of all ages. Vaccines that prevent the childhood disease chicken pox also prevents adult from developing shingles since both come from the same virus, varicella-zoster. Another vaccine, the HPV vaccine, prevents multiple forms of cancer.
In some cases, diseases have all but disappeared thanks to strenuous vaccination efforts. You rarely hear of smallpox, diphtheria, or rubella today thanks to vaccines.
Vaccine development and safety
Dr. Sheffield, who works closely with state and federal partners on vaccine practices and guidelines, said the process has been sped up but steps weren’t skipped nor was safety compromised.
“The same phased trials have been conducted around the world, involving tens of thousands of people, that would be conducted with any vaccine,” said Dr. Sheffield.
“We’ve seen the same development hurdles and challenges for COVID that we’ve seen for shingles, influenza, or other vaccines,” said Dr. Sheffield. “No vaccine protects perfectly. Nor are all vaccines without potential symptoms or side effects. However, by and large, the risks associated with vaccines are far, far less than those associated with the diseases they protect against.”
Creating herd immunity against COVID-19 and other diseases
“We had been working to create protection for those who couldn’t be vaccinated by immunizing adults,” said Dr. Sheffield. “Having a vaccine that can be given to kids as young as 12 is a huge step forward. The more people that are immunized, the more protection there is for those that can’t yet receive the vaccine or have only partial protection."
“If a disease isn’t circulating in the community, then it’s harder or impossible for someone to be exposed and fall ill,” said Dr. Sheffield.
Now is a great time to look at the other vaccinations an individual should receive. “We don’t want to give COVID vaccine within 14 days of other vaccines,” said Dr. Sheffield. “We want the best protection we can get from our COVID vaccinations, and the clinical trials did not test to see how other vaccines might impact the effectiveness of the COVID vaccine. By separating them, we are more confident we will get the same good results as those in the studies.”
Keeping up on childhood immunizations
“Right now is a great time to catch up kids on other vaccinations because they don’t yet have the opportunity to receive the COVID vaccine,” said Dr. Sheffield. “Check with your pediatrician to see what vaccines are recommended, or what you might need to catch up on.”
“Vaccines are a great way to create natural and lasting protection against viruses and illness,” said Dr. Sheffield. “We put kids in car seats, encourage them to wear helmets, and give them good foods and warm clothes to protect them. Vaccines are one more way we keep our kids healthy and safe.”
“And while we’re protecting our kids, we can protect ourselves as well,” adds Dr. Sheffield. “If we protect ourselves from COVID, we protect our children, our aging parents, and those in the community that are at risk. The COVID vaccine can help us to get back to spending time with those we care about doing the things we care about with the peace of mind that we are protected.”