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 Get Immunized

Did you know that in the United States measles and diphtheria used to kill thousands of people a year? Or that in 1952, 20,000 people were crippled from polio? We might think we do not have to worry about these diseases today because, thanks to vaccines, we do not see them nearly as often as we used to. But they're still around and they're still dangerous.

Why are immunizations important?
Getting you and your family immunized is a very easy way to prevent getting some very serious diseases. About 128,000 people still get infected with hepatitis B virus each year. There's no cure but a simple immunization can prevent it. By getting immunized your family fights disease in two ways. First, you protect yourselves, but also you protect others, because if you don't have a disease you can't spread it to someone else.

What is an immunization?
Sometimes immunizations are called vaccinations or just shots. And they help our body fight diseases.

What diseases can immunizations prevent?
The following ten dangerous diseases are prevented by routine shots given to children.

  • Polio
  • Measles
  • Mumps
  • Rubella (or German measles)
  • Diphtheria
  • Tetanus
  • Whooping cough
  • Meningitis
  • Chicken pox
  • Hepatitis B

There are other shots for diseases given to both adults and children if they are at risk of getting those diseases or they are likely to have serious complications if they get them. Examples of these include:

  • Hepatitis A
  • Flu
  • Pneumonia

Without shots your children could get these diseases. And these diseases can also lead to pneumonia, brain damage, severe eye problems, paralysis, or other serious problems.

When should you or your family be immunized?
Immunizations for Children
Many "baby shots" protect your children for the rest of their lives. The following schedule is recommended:

  • Children should get their first shots no later than 2 months of age, and
  • Return for shots 4 or more times before they're two years old.
  • Some diseases need booster shots when your child is older.

Ask your doctor when you and your family need vaccines. And be sure to keep your immunization records in a safe place.

Immunizations for Adults
Adults need immunizations too, because each year thousands of adults die unnecessarily from flu, pneumonia and hepatitis B.

  • You need tetanus and diphtheria shots repeated every 10 years.
  • You may need shots when traveling to other countries.

How much do immunizations cost?
Shots are inexpensive but the diseases they prevent can be very expensive. While public health clinics may charge a small service fee, they may provide free vaccines. And ask your doctor about special programs that provide free shots to your children.

Most people are getting their families immunized so many serious diseases are at an all time low in the United States. But some of them are still common in other countries. If we stop vaccinating, they could easily return to the United States. Thanks to vaccinations smallpox, a deadly disease, has been wiped out and polio will soon be gone, too. With immunizations we not only can prevent some very serious diseases, but actually eliminate them from the world. It is easy, inexpensive, and it saves lives.

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This page last reviewed April 5, 2000

Division of Quarantine
National Center for Infectious Diseases
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


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