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Vaccines and Disaster Preparedness

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In the event of a disaster, communicable diseases greatly increase the risk of death. The major causes of communicable diseases in disasters are contaminated food and water, respiratory infections, vector and insect-borne diseases, and infections due to wounds and injuries.

Keeping up to date with vaccinations is one important way you can be prepared for a disaster. Vaccines can’t prevent every disease you may encounter in a disaster situation, but they can protect you from many. Vaccinations teach your immune system to recognize and eliminate organisms that may make you sick, so your body is already prepared if you’re ever exposed, which might be even more likely in an emergency situation where many people are crowded together or if you have injuries.

In recent years, opposition to vaccinations has been discussed in the news. Some concerned parents have chosen not to vaccinate their children, primarily out of fear that vaccines can cause autism. It’s important to note that multiple studies have shown vaccines do not cause autism. Vaccines have been researched extensively, and are considered very safe.

Unfortunately, the misconceptions around vaccine safety have lead to serious health problems. Due to the large number of people refusing vaccines, diseases that were thought to be eradicated in the U.S., such as measles, have reemerged. Pertussis, or whooping cough, another potentially deadly disease, has also made a resurgence.

The best way to prevent you or your child from contracting a preventable illness is to stay up to date with vaccines.

The recommended vaccinations for infants and young children are:

  • HepB protects against hepatitis B
  • RV protects against rotavirus
  • Tdap protects against diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis
  • Hib protects against Haemophilus influenzae 
  • PCV protects against pneumococcal disease. PCV is given in a series of four doses.
  • IPV protects against polio
  • Influenza (flu) protects against the flu
  • MMR protects against measles, mumps, and rubella
  • Varicella protects chickenpox
  • HepA protects against hepatitis A

An immunization schedule for infants and children is available on the CDC website.

Recommended vaccinations for adults are:

  • Tdap: You’ll need a booster dose every 10 years. Protection from tetanus is especially important in the event of a disaster, where you may be exposed to rusty metal which greatly heightens your risk for this disease. You’ll need this vaccine in the event of an emergency surgery.

  • Inflluenza: Adults should get this shot once a year.

Other vaccinations recommended for adults on a case-by-case basis are listed here, but always check with your doctor to see if they apply to you.

In short, getting vaccinated and staying up to date with vaccinations is an easy way to protect yourself, your family, and the whole population. Vaccines can prevent the outbreak of serious illnesses and save many lives. There are some groups of people who may not be able to get vaccinated, such as pregnant mothers, newborn infants, or people with a compromised immune system. If you can get vaccinated, you’re helping protect the people who can’t by containing the disease through “community immunity.”

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