Vaccines can help prevent a number of diseases. However, vaccination may only reduce the risk or severity of certain diseases. For example, vaccination has eradicated polio in the United States. On the other hand, vaccines can only reduce the incidence of cervical cancer, not prevent it. HPV vaccines that are currently available only prevent two of the many cancer-causing types of the virus.
Not all vaccines are recommended for everyone. Some vaccines are expensive or difficult to manufacture. For example, only people who have a high risk of exposure to anthrax would be vaccinated against it. But almost every child should be vaccinated against measles, mumps, and rubella.
Talk to your doctor about what vaccinations are right for you and your family. You may need to get some vaccinations, like the flu vaccine, more than once in your lifespan. The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months and older who doesn’t have a specific contraindication (such as an allergy to the vaccine) should receive the seasonal flu vaccination every year.
Vaccine-preventable diseases include:
- haemophilus influenzae type b
- hepatitis A
- hepatitis B
- human papillomavirus (HPV)
- influenza (flu)
- Japanese encephalitis
- Lyme disease (no longer available in the United States)
- pertussis (whooping cough)
- variola virus (smallpox)
- rubella (German measles)
- shingles (herpes zoster)
- tetanus (lockjaw)
- tuberculosis (TB)
- varicella (chickenpox)
- yellow fever
Some of these diseases are rare. Some of them, such as polio and smallpox, have been eradicated or nearly eradicated. However, vaccination is still important. Just because vaccination has made a disease uncommon doesn’t mean it can’t reemerge.
A good example of this is polio. There hasn’t been a naturally occurring case of polio in the United States since 1979. But the disease remains endemic in some areas of Africa. Ongoing efforts to eliminate the disease in those areas and prevent new cases in the United States require ongoing vaccination efforts.