Healthy Living: Vaccination Resource Guide
Vaccinations protect people from diseases that were dangerous and
fatal just a few decades ago. While many vaccinations are given to children
starting in infancy, a few are given later in life, such as during the
teenage years. Adults who did not receive certain vaccines as children
may want to get themselves vaccinated as a precaution. Some vaccinations
are given to people who are traveling internationally, as the risk for
some diseases is very small in the US. As a few vaccines wear off over
a period of time, it is important that people receive periodic boosters
to keep themselves safe and healthy.
The DTap vaccine protects against three formerly common childhood diseases: diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis, also called whooping cough. It is recommended for all children in the US. The vaccine is given over the course of five injections, usually starting at the age of two months and continuing until the child is between four and six years of age. Protection does wear off over time, so it is recommended that a booster shot be given around 11 years of age and then every decade through adulthood.
Hepatitis A and B
Hepatitis generally refers to swelling in the liver. The condition can be caused by viruses, such as Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B or it can be caused by damage to the liver from alcohol abuse or medications. Vaccines are available to protect against both hepatitis A and B. Initially, hepatitis A vaccinations were given to people who were traveling to countries where the disease is common. It is now given to almost all children, starting at least one year of age, as is the vaccine for hepatitis B. Two or three doses of the vaccine are needed for protection.
Meningitis can be caused by a virus, bacteria or a fungus that infects the tissues and fluids surrounding the brain and the spinal cord. It is a very contagious disease in some cases. While meningitis is treatable, it can be deadly if not caught in time. Vaccinations protect people against bacterial forms of the disease. The meningitis vaccine is given to children starting at nine months.
Polio is an incurable disease caused by a virus. It was once a common childhood illness but is now controlled in first world countries by a vaccine that is given to children starting at the age of two months. A total of four doses are needed for the vaccine to be effective. Usually, the protection offered by the vaccine lasts for life.
The Haemophilus influenzae type B vaccine, or Hib, protects against several diseases caused by the Haemophilus influenzae bacteria. These diseases include certain types of pneumonia, meningitis, and epiglottitis, an infection in the throat. The vaccine is given to children starting at two months of age. Usually, children receive four doses, with the last dose occurring before age six.
Chickenpox, once a very common childhood disease, is caused by the varicella-zoster virus. A vaccine is now available to protect children against the disease. As the disease is particularly dangerous for older children and adults, those who have not had chickenpox should also get the vaccine. Usually, the vaccine is recommended for children beginning at one year of age.
Measles and Mumps
The MMR vaccine, or measles, mumps, rubella, is usually given to children between the ages of 12 and 15 months, then again between the ages of four and six years. The vaccination provides protection for people throughout the rest of their lives against the three diseases. The MMR vaccine uses a live form of the viruses to develop a person's immune system and provide protection against illness. In some cases, the MMR vaccine is combined with the vaccination for chickenpox.
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