Your health can’t wait … Vaccinate!

Published 5:59 pm Friday, June 21, 2019

Vaccines are becoming a hot topic in today’s society. The debate stands strong of whether you should or shouldn’t vaccinate. Being fully educated on recommended vaccines, their effects on you and others, and what to do in case of an outbreak can help you navigate this tough topic.

Your health can’t wait, vaccinate! Reflect on the recent measles outbreak. It is very important to understand that vaccines are available to prevent potentially harmful diseases that could affect your child. Vaccines are a highly effective and a very safe method when it comes to preventing certain infectious diseases with low risks of side effects or adverse reactions. The most common side effects related to vaccinations include low-grade temperature, redness and swelling at the site.

Extensive studies have shown that there are no links between vaccines and autism. There are 17 recommended vaccines throughout a person’s lifetime. The majority of these vaccines are given by age 5 or the start of kindergarten. The next round of vaccinations are to be given before entering the 7th grade and then again for entrance into college. There are also vaccines recommended for adults from age 65 and older to help strengthen the immune system, as it weakens over time. Although the number of recommended vaccines seems overwhelming, they will not overload the body’s immune system. The goal is to provide protection prior to vulnerability to serious infections.

Immunity is built upon exposure to germs that do not belong in your body. Vaccines are formulated with weakened or dead strains of the disease that work to activate your body’s response system, which will in turn help your body identify and fight future exposure to vaccine-preventable diseases. For those who cannot receive vaccines for medical reasons, herd immunity is very important. Herd immunity refers to a large percentage of a community being vaccinated to help protect those who are unable to receive vaccinations. Beaufort County School students, along with students from private and charter schools, make up a total population of 7,385. From this population, 62 have never received a vaccine or have only been partially vaccinated due to exemptions. This is over a 99% vaccination rate for the students of Beaufort County, thus providing these students with appropriate herd immunity. Because a large number of students are vaccinated against potential life-threatening diseases, we hope that our chances of an outbreak in the school setting are low.

Beaufort County Health Department gathers and uses data on reportable diseases to protect the local community. Let’s use a measles outbreak as an example of how it all unfolds. First, a disease report is sent to the health department and the communicable disease nurse begins to investigate. To be considered an outbreak, two or more cases of the same disease develop within a specific place or group of people over a given period of time. Some of the signs and symptoms that we would monitor for measles include high fever, cough, runny nose, red/watery eyes, and koplik spots. Koplik spots are tiny white spots that will appear inside the mouth. Then, three to five days after the other symptoms appear, a rash becomes visible. It begins on the face and head and spreads down person’s trunk to extremities. The individual with this rash is considered contagious four days prior to onset and four days after the rash started. If a measles outbreak were to develop within a school system, where close contact may exist, rapid public health investigation is very important for evaluation of further risk of transmission. Putting into practice control measures, such as quarantining/confining unvaccinated children, to reduce the potential spread of disease is vital, especially in educational facilities where there are high rates of vaccine exemptions.

In conclusion, being well-informed about vaccine preventable diseases and keeping your families protected through proper vaccination can support the effort to eliminate deadly diseases. If you are unsure about childhood immunizations, please contact your primary care provider and/or local health department for more information.

Alexis Cordon, RN-immunization coordinator, and Meredith Duke, RN-communicable disease & TB coordinator, can be reached at the Beaufort County Health Department at 252-946-1902 or via email at