August is National Immunization Awareness Month

Vaccines are Safe. Vaccines are Effective. Vaccines Save Lives.

We all need shots (vaccines) to help protect us from serious diseases. This protection is called immunization. To help keep our community safe, the Indiana University School of Public Health is helping to spread the word about what we can all do to improve our health through National Immunization Awareness Month.

Shots can prevent serious diseases like the flu, measles, and pneumonia. It’s important to know which shots you need and when to get them.

Everyone age 6 months and older needs to get a flu vaccine every year. Other types of shots work best at specific ages or life stages.

Talk to your doctor or nurse to make sure that everyone in your family gets the shots they need. 

What is Immunity?

When disease germs enter your body, they start to reproduce. Your immune system recognizes these germs as foreign invaders and responds by making proteins called antibodies. These antibodies’ first job is to help destroy the germs that are making you sick. They can’t act fast enough to prevent you from becoming sick, but by eliminating the attacking germs, antibodies help you to get well.
The antibodies’ second job is to protect you from future infections. They remain in your bloodstream, and if the same germs ever try to infect you again — even after many years — they will come to your defense. Only now that they are experienced at fighting these particular germs, they can destroy them before they have a chance to make you sick. This is immunity. It is why most people get diseases like measles or chickenpox only once, even though they might be exposed many times during their lifetime.

Vaccines to the Rescue

Vaccines offer a solution to this problem. They help you develop immunity without getting sick first.

Vaccines are made from the same germs (or parts of them) that cause disease; for example, polio vaccine is made from polio virus. But the germs in vaccines are either killed or weakened so they won’t make you sick.

Vaccines containing these weakened or killed germs are introduced into your body, usually by injection. Your immune system reacts to the vaccine in a similar way that it would if it were being invaded by the disease — by making antibodies. The antibodies destroy the vaccine germs just as they would the disease germs — like a training exercise. Then they stay in your body, giving you immunity. If you are ever exposed to the real disease, the antibodies are there to protect you.

Immunizations (also called shots or vaccines) help prevent dangerous and sometimes deadly diseases. Immunization isn’t just for kids – to stay protected against serious illnesses like the flu, measles, and pneumonia, adults need to get vaccinated, too.

Are Vaccines Safe?

Some people have had concerns that Autism Spectrum Disorder might be linked to the vaccines children receive, but studies have shown that there is no link between receiving vaccines and developing ASD. In 2011, an Institute of Medicine (IOM) report on eight vaccines given to children and adults found that with rare exceptions, these vaccines are very safe. See more from the CDC on vaccine safety