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What Are Vaccines and Why Are They Important? Vaccine Facts

20th September, 2019 | Published by Saltzer Health


With a growing number of parents, families, and public figures questioning how best to care for children, it becomes crucial for parents to obtain factual information about vaccines. There are various myths associated with vaccinations in modern medicine that might deter individuals from getting vaccines. With measles outbreaks cropping up more frequently, it becomes increasingly important to understand what vaccines are and why they are so important. 


What Is a Vaccine?

A vaccine is an agent that mimics a disease-causing microorganism through diminished or destroyed forms of the microorganism. Vaccines are also commonly known as “immunizations” because of the way that they facilitate increased immunity to diseases. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), vaccinations are the most efficient method to prevent infectious disease. There are also a variety of types of vaccines:


  • Inactivated: This type of vaccine is made up of inactive microorganisms. Examples include polio and rabies vaccines.
  • Attenuated: This type of vaccine is made up of active microorganisms that are stripped of their virulent features. Examples include measles and mumps vaccines.
  • Toxoid: This type of vaccine is made up of inactive toxic compounds as opposed to microorganisms. Examples include tetanus and diphtheria vaccines. 
  • Subunit: This type of vaccine is made up of the smallest microbial elements needed to evoke an immune response. Examples include shingles and human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines.
  • Conjugate: This type of vaccine is made up of a strong and weak antigen in order to provoke an immune response to the weaker antigen. Examples include meningitis and haemophilus influenzae (Hib) vaccines.


There is also an array of experimental research and innovative vaccines that are in the production and testing period. The standard for vaccines is always evolving. 

Why Are Vaccines Important?

Vaccines are preventative measures intended to help keep individuals from developing a host of infectious diseases, and to help build herd immunity. According to Doctor Katie Copeland, who appeared on The Healthcare Podcast to discuss vaccines and immunizations in light of measles outbreaks, “herd immunity means you can kind of protect vulnerable individuals, if you protect and cocoon that individual by vaccinating everyone around them.” 

One of the ideas that Doctor Copeland goes on to explain is that if we vaccinate everyone around infants that are not vaccinated, the infant will never be exposed to the virus. If vaccines are utilized, epidemics such as measles outbreaks can be avoided. Copeland notes that a large outbreak of measles is more likely due to an increase in the anti-vaccine population that, in turn, reduces the herd immunity as a whole. 

Doctor John Kaiser puts a numerical value behind Copeland’s utterance of herd immunity by describing that, in order “to maintain herd immunity, you need about 92-93% of the population to be immune” and that entails needing to have “95% of the population to be vaccinated” to account for those that do not have immunity.

What Types of Vaccines Do Kids Need?

Recommendations for vaccines are defined by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and they often change as new innovations in vaccination are developed and implemented. As such, it is best to consult with a doctor for guidance. Vaccination recommendations include: 

  • Varicella (Chickenpox);
  • DTaP (Diphtheria/Tetanus/Pertussis);
  • Hib (Haemophilus influenzae type b);
  • HepA (Hepatitis A);
  • HepB (Hepatitis B); 
  • Flu (Influenza);
  • MMR (Measles/Mumps/Rubella);
  • IPV (Polio);
  • PCV13 (Pneumococcus);
  • RV (Rotavirus).

What Is the AAP Vaccination Schedule?

Aside from the AAP offering recommended vaccinations, they also offer vaccination schedules. The AAP website splits vaccination schedules into two categories: birth to 6 years and 7 to 18 years. According to the AAP, if your child misses a shot or shots, you do not need to start the schedule over again; go to your child’s doctor and talk with them. 

Should Adults Get Vaccinations?

Everyone should get immunizations, including adults. Adult immunizations are arguably as important as child immunizations, because even though you may not have experienced the direct backlash of a virus, you are at risk for serious disease. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are several vaccines that help develop immunity to disease:

  • HepB vaccine: Lowers risk of liver cancer;
  • HPV vaccine: Lowers risk of cervical cancer;
  • Flu vaccine: Lowers risk of flu-related heart attacks.

Aside from personal protection, the same CDC article goes on to say that getting vaccinated can protect the people that surround you from disease. Some individuals are unable to get specific vaccines for age or health reasons. Your vaccinations act as their prevention and protection. For a great resource, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has suggestions for adult immunizations

Where Can I Get More Information about Vaccines?

There are a variety of outlets for obtaining more information about vaccines. Saltzer Health offers multiple resources and they include:

  • The Healthcare Podcast: Designed to uncover myths of modern medicine, portray cost transparency and improve overall access and innovation;
  • Array of Doctors: From pediatrics, geriatrics, family practice, as well as internal medicine, there are a surplus of doctors at the click of a button.


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