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Thursday, August 18, 2016

There’s been a lot of controversy and media coverage about vaccines. Are they really safe?

Posted By: Advancing Care

According to two Westchester Medical Health Network (WMCHealth) experts, the safety and effectiveness of vaccines are not subjects of controversy, at least from a medical and scientific point of view.

“Vaccines are a safe and effective way of preventing disease,” says Stephen Lobo, MD, Department of Medicine Hospitalist at Westchester Medical Center (WMC). “Because of universal vaccination programs, we have seen either a dramatic drop or, in the cases of smallpox and polio, a complete eradication of diseases in the United States in the last century.”

Vaccines also help to produce “herd immunity,” meaning when administered to one patient, it can help stop the spread of diseases to their loved ones and the community at large.

Vaccinations are recommended for patients of all ages, whether they are in good health or not. There are routine (influenza, tetanus, etc.) or non-routine vaccines (yellow fever, typhoid) that are recommended for certain groups of patients, like travelers or the chronically ill.

Most vaccinations occur during infancy and early childhood, but some need to be administered throughout life. As for their role in public health, Vicki Iannotti, MD, Associate Chief of General Pediatrics and Pediatric Hospitalist at Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital, is clear. “Vaccines save lives; they are safe and effective,” she asserts. ”They prevent diseases and protect our community — especially the very young and the elderly — from life-threatening illnesses.”

In September 2016, a new vaccine mandate will take effect in New York State, for meningococcal disease. This rare but dangerous disease can strike healthy young people without warning, causing meningitis and sepsis. Therefore, beginning on Sept. 1, 2016, all public- and private-school students entering 7th and 12th grades in New York State must be fully vaccinated against meningococcal disease in order to attend school.

For those who are vaccine hesitant, Dr. Iannotti advises “reading history to remember where we were in relation to infectious diseases, and the science of vaccine development, to understand what is being given and why.”

Both doctors encourage patients and their loved ones to speak with their primary-care physicians about what vaccines are right for them.