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Immunization not only helps to protect vaccinated individuals, but also helps prevent and reduce the spread of infectious diseases.

With every medical intervention, we must weigh the risks versus the benefits, but with vaccinations, it seems to be all benefit. Vaccines make our bodies more resilient to many illnesses and diseases that killed our ancestors at a young age and are still lurking in the world today. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), thousands of children and adults become infected each year with diseases that vaccines can prevent. This shouldn’t be happening in 2017.

Vaccines are among the safest and most cost-effective ways to prevent disease. Routine childhood vaccines protect against 14 serious and potentially life-threatening diseases — Diphtheria, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Influenza, Measles, Rotavirus, Tetanus (Lockjaw), Mumps, Pertussis (Whooping Cough), Pneumococcal disease, Polio, Rubella (German Measles), Meningococcal disease (bacterial meningitis) and Varicella (Chickenpox/Shingles).

However, when cases are reported, it is usually because a parent chose not to vaccinate their child. Schools are a prime venue for transmitting vaccine-preventable diseases, and school-aged children can easily spread disease to their families and others with whom they come in contact. For example, a case of whooping cough can spread like wildfire and could even lead to the death of children too young for vaccinations.

But, immunizations are not just for young children. We should not overlook college students. A perfect example is the case of Emily Stillman, a healthy 19-year-old college sophomore who died suddenly from meningitis B. Her first symptom was a headache. Within 36 hours, she was dead. The vaccination that was unavailable for Emily in 2013 is available today. Health officials say the disease most often affects young adults between the ages of 17 and 23 — the time when young adults are most likely to be living in dorms or apartments in close proximity to others, which can increase the chance of exposure.

Each year, thousands of adults in the United States suffer serious health problems, are hospitalized, or even die from diseases that could be prevented. When adults die from diseases for which we do have vaccinations, it is often because protection from some childhood vaccines can wear off over time, leaving them vulnerable. For example, a Td (tetanus, diphtheria) booster shot is necessary every 10 years. Additionally, the specific vaccines you need as an adult are determined by your age, job, lifestyle, health conditions, travel, and which vaccines you’ve had in the past. However, all adults need a flu vaccine every year, especially those with chronic health conditions, pregnant women, and the elderly.  So, it is important to ask your doctor which vaccines are right for you.

To increase awareness, August has been identified as National Immunization Awareness Month. Coinciding with the start of the school year, it is a great time for parents to get their children’s’ health, and their own, in order.

For more valuable vaccine information to keep you and your family protected, click here.

Mark Bello has practiced law for 40 years. He is currently the CEO and General Counsel of Lawsuit Financial Corporation, a pro-justice lawsuit funding company, and the author of the legal thriller Betrayal of Faith (available on major online book store sites) and Betrayal of Justice (to be released later this summer).

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