The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention and the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases are sponsoring National Immunization Awareness month in August.

The two health agencies are working to spread the word that immunizations help prevent dangerous and even deadly diseases. Immunizations are beneficial for both children and adults, helping Americans avoid illnesses like the measles, the flu, and tuberculosis.

A National Immunization Awareness Month press release recommends:

  • Talking to friends and family members about how vaccines aren’t just for kids. People of all ages can get shots to protect them from serious diseases.
  • Encouraging people in the community to get the flu shot every year.
  • Invite a doctor or nurse to speak to parents about why it’s important for all kinds to get vaccinated.

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, child immunization rates remain high. The percentage of 19-35 month old receiving vaccinations for certain diseases is as follows:

  • Diptheria, Tetanus, Pertussis: 83 percent
  • Polio: 93 percent
  • Measles, Mumps, Rubella: 91 percent
  • Haemophilus influenzae type b: 81 percent
  • Hepatitis B: 90 percent
  • Chickenpox: 90 percent
  • Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine: 82 percent

Immunizations work by building up the immune system to create antibodies that can fight infection. Vaccines contain the same germs that cause the disease—and some vaccines contain only a part of the disease germ—which stimulates the immune system in the same way it would if the person were exposed to the disease itself.

Childhood vaccines produce immunity in between 90 and 100 percent of cases, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Better hygiene and sanitation are no substitute for the power of vaccines; the germs remain in the atmosphere and will eventually settle in and make an unvaccinated child or adult sick.

Vaccines must be licensed by the Food and Drug Administration, which requires extensive testing to prove it is an effective and safe drug. Part of the extensive testing process is clinical trials; without a successful clinical trial, in which one group of people gets the vaccine and one doesn’t, the vaccine will not be approved for general use.

Extensive research has shown that the incidence rates of certain diseases drop dramatically when a vaccine is licensed. The measles vaccine was licensed in 1962, and starting then, the number of measles cases saw a sharp decline before almost disappearing completely in 1993. The polio vaccine, licensed in 1955, and the Hib vaccine, developed in 1990, sparked similar trends.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offer a number of vaccination resources, including:

Visit the CDC website for more information, tools, and resources.