National Immunization Awareness Month, an annual observance to highlight the importance of vaccinations - a
highly effective, easy way to keep your family and loved ones healthy.
They help to provide immunity before you’re exposed to potentially
life-threatening diseases and infections. Vaccines are tested to make
sure they’re safe and effective to receive at all recommended ages.
Frederick Regional Health System as we champion how vaccines reduce the risk of infection and protect people
of all ages within our community.
How Do Vaccines Work?
Vaccines reduce the risk of infection by working with the body’s
natural defenses to safely develop immunity to disease. When germs like
bacteria or viruses invade the body, they attack and multiply. This invasion,
or infection, is what causes illness and its symptoms. The first time
the body encounters these germs, it can take several days to make and
use all germ-fighting tools needed to fight the infection. After the infection
is gone, the immune system “remembers” how to protect the
body against that specific disease.
Vaccines help to develop immunity by imitating infections. They never cause
illness, but they may cause the immune system to produce antibodies, which
sometimes lead to minor symptoms like fever. Once the imitation infection
is gone, the body is left with memory cells that will remember how to
fight the disease in the future.
Researchers and scientists take many special approaches when developing
new vaccines. Information about infections, how the immune system will
respond to them, and even environmental conditions of where the vaccine
will be used come into play. In the U.S., there are
five main types of vaccines that we commonly receive:
Live, attenuated vaccines: These are the vaccines that fight viruses and bacteria. They contain a
version of the living virus or bacteria, which means they’re good
“teachers” for the immune system, but they’re weakened
enough not to cause any harm. Examples of these vaccines include
measles, mumps & rubella (MMR), and
varicella (chickenpox). Children with already weakened immune systems, due to chemotherapy or
cancer, for example, cannot get live vaccines.
Inactivated vaccines: These vaccines also fight viruses and bacteria; however, they’re
made by inactivating or killing the germ during the vaccine making process.
Often, multiple doses are required to build up or maintain immunity. Examples
Hepatitis A, and
Toxoid vaccines: These prevent disease caused by bacteria that produce toxins in the body.
While making these vaccines, scientists weaken the toxins so they can’t
cause illness. When the body receives the vaccine containing this weakened
toxin or toxoid, it learns how to fight off the natural toxin. The
diphtheria, tetanus, and whooping cough) vaccine is a perfect example.
Subunit vaccines: These contain small parts of the virus and bacteria, or subunits, instead
of the entire germ. Side effects are less common because they don’t
contain the full makeup of the germ. An example of a subunit vaccine is the
pertussis (whooping cough) component of the
DTaP vaccine or the
HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccine.
Conjugate vaccines: These vaccines fight off a different type of bacteria - ones with an outer
coating of sugar-like substances called polysaccharides. This coating
disguises the antigen so the immune system has a hard time recognizing
and responding to it. Conjugate vaccines are effective because they help
the immune system react to the coating and develop an immune response. The
Haemophilus influenza type B (Hib) vaccine is a conjugate vaccine.
Some vaccines require more than one dose. For some vaccines, primarily
inactivated vaccines, the first dose does not provide as much immunity
as possible, so more is needed to complete immunity. For others, including
booster shots, resistance begins to wear off after a while and require
annual immunization (ex. flu vaccines). With flu vaccines, the viruses
causing disease change from season to season, so the shots are made to
protect against the viruses that researchers suggest will be most common
Some people believe that naturally acquired immunity (or catching the disease
itself and allowing the body to fight it off) is preferable to vaccines.
But many natural infections can cause devastating complications to the
body, even death. This is true for the mildest of diseases, such as chickenpox.
Even with advances in healthcare, these diseases can be deadly, and vaccination
is the best way to prevent them. Immunizations are available from your
primary care provider, the
Frederick County Health Department, and at several local pharmacies.
Which Vaccines Do I Need?
To help provide immunity before you’re exposed to potentially life-threatening
Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends on-time vaccinations. These are the recommended vaccinations
at various stages of life:
Measles, mumps, rubella (MMR): At least 1 month before pregnancy
Tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (Tdap): During the third trimester
Yearly seasonal flu shot: By the end of October
Infant and Toddlers (birth to age 2)
Chickenpox (varicella): At 12-15 months
Diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (DTaP): At 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, and 15-18 months
Flu shot: Every year by the end of October, starting at 6 months
Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib): At 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, and 12-15 months
Hepatitis A: At 12-23 months and again at 6 months, following the first dose
Hepatitis B: Shortly after birth, at 1-2 months, and 6-18 months
Measles, mumps, rubella (MMR): At 12-15 months (though infants 6-11 months traveling abroad should have
one dose before leaving the country)
Pneumococcal (PCV13): At 2 months, 4 months, and 6-18 months
Polio (IPV): At 2 months, 4 months, and 6-18 months
Rotavirus (RV): At 2 and 4 months, or 2 months, 4 months, and 6 months (depending on the brand)
Preschool and Elementary School (ages 3-10)
Chickenpox (varicella): At 4-6 years
Diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (DTaP): At 4-6 years
Flu shot: Every year by the end of October
Measles, mumps, rubella (MMR): At 4-6 years
Polio (IPV): At 4-6 years
Preteen and Teen (ages 11-18)
Flu shot: Every year by the end of October
Human papillomavirus (HPV): At 11-12 years and again 6-12 months after the first dose
Meningococcal conjugate vaccine: At 11-12 years and 16 years
Serogroup B meningococcal vaccine: At 16-23 years, if interested
Tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (Tdap): At 11-12 years
Flu shot: Ever year by the end of October
Td vaccine: Every 10 years
Shingles vaccine: At 50 years and older
Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine: At 65 years or older, followed by one dose of thepneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine
Adults 65 years and older with certain conditions like
cancer, or HIV should also get one or both of these vaccines
- Other vaccines recommended by your primary care provider and based on health
conditions, job, lifestyle, or travel habits
Want to learn more about immunizations and why they’re important?
Visit any of the helpful resources below.