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August is National Immunization Awareness Month. You might recall the outbreak of measles at Disneyland® in California earlier this year. This outbreak was a good reminder of why vaccines are so important. Vaccines can help protect you from, or make you immune to, many common diseases.

Thanks to vaccines, some diseases, like polio, are all but unheard of in the United States. And others, like measles, are very rare. In fact, vaccines work so well that some wonder if we still need them. But as the recent measles outbreak shows, the answer to that is a definite yes. Vaccines work to:

  1. Protect you. Vaccine-preventable diseases are rare in the U.S., but they still exist in other countries. As people travel to and from these countries, it’s possible for these diseases to spread.In fact, that is likely how the measles outbreak in Disneyland began. Someone became infected while overseas without knowing it, and then traveled to Disneyland in California. That exposed many people in the park to the disease. But vaccines can help protect you from getting diseases like measles. Even if you were around someone with that disease, you would be immune.
  2. Protect those around you. Most diseases are spread from person to person. When you get vaccinated, you make it harder for a disease to spread. That helps protect everyone else around you. This is known as community immunity or herd immunity.

This is important because not everyone can be vaccinated. This may include infants and women who are pregnant or nursing. It may include those who are allergic to the vaccine. And it may include some older adults and people with weakened immune systems.

If you haven’t already, you may want to talk with your doctor about vaccines. Find out which vaccines are right for you. Review which ones you have had and which ones you might need. Your doctor can recommend the right vaccines for you based on your personal needs and health history.