Vaccines: 3 Important Things to Know

When it comes to maintaining health and protecting yourself and your family against diseases, vaccinations play an essential role.

"One of the very best examples of why we need vaccines is one we don't think about as much, and that's polio," says Dr. Valerie Scott of Roper St. Francis Healthcare. "Polio was a huge, huge disease that terrified parents. By developing a vaccine, we went from 350,000 cases of polio worldwide in 1988 to 33 cases worldwide in 2018. It's huge when you think about that."

In today's society, vaccinations remain an essential part of healthcare. Here are three important things to know about vaccines.

1. South Carolina requires all children to have certain vaccinations.

The state requires kids to get several vaccinations, along with a valid Certificate of Immunization or valid exemption, to be able to attend daycare or school. These include diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis, polio, measles, mumps and rubella, and hepatitis B. You can consult this complete list of required vaccinations to ensure your child has everything he or she needs. These requirements sometimes change -- for example, beginning in July 2020 a hepatitis A vaccination will also be required.

Additionally, there are several vaccinations that, while not required, are highly recommended, Dr. Scott says. Those include the rotavirus vaccine as well as the HPV vaccine, which is most effective when a child is around 11 or 12. Additionally, Dr. Scott recommends the meningitis vaccine, especially before your child heads to college.

2. Vaccinations are safe.

Some parents worry about the safety of vaccines, but Dr. Scott says they're always worth the risk.

"Nothing is 100% safe, but vaccines have been very well-tested and monitored," Dr. Scott says. "Could you have an allergic reaction? Yes, you could, because you could have an allergic reaction to anything. But it's very uncommon to have a significant reaction to a vaccine."

Take the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, for example. If you contract any of those viruses, you'd have a 3 in 1,000 chance of death. If you have the vaccine, you have a one in a million chance. "You can't say there can't be a reaction, but you have to put it in perspective with the illness," Dr. Scott says.

When Dr. Scott and the Roper St. Francis team give a vaccination, they always provide an information sheet developed by the CDC which talks about any potential risks along with the benefits of the vaccine.

3. Vaccines are meant for adults, too.

"I think the recent outbreak of pertussis, also known as whooping cough, reminds us that adults need to get their vaccines too," Dr. Scott says. "Adults, especially older adults, are a reservoir for whooping cough."

All adults should get a tetanus shot every 10 years, and older adults should get the shingles and pneumococcal pneumonia vaccines. Nobody likes getting shots, but you'll be so grateful you did.

As the Lowcountry leader in adult healthcare, Roper St. Francis can take care of all of your primary healthcare needs. To learn more or to schedule an appointment, call (843) 402-CARE or visit