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Vaccines - Essential Preventive Medicine
Ernest Rosenbaum, MD and Cigall Kadoch, BA

- In 1796, Edward Jenner developed and implemented a vaccine against smallpox.
- In 1885, Louis Pasteur coined the term vaccine and first used rabies vaccine on a human patient.
- In 1952, Jonas Salk was the first to develop a successful polio vaccine; in 1957, Sabin developed a live, oral form of polio vaccine in which the infectious part of the virus was inactivated.

Vaccinations are an essential part of preventive medicine against infections, such as smallpox, diphtheria, tetanus, polio, measles, hepatitis, and human papillomavirus (HPV). Vaccines have saved millions of lives and have prevented crippling disabilities caused by many of these diseases.

There is currently a low adult immunization rate and lack of public awareness of the importance of vaccinations, despite the threat of many infectious diseases.

Those not getting vaccinated, including the elderly and those in minority groups, often face greater challenges when suffering from these diseases, such as language barriers, cultural differences and lower health literacy levels, placing them at a higher risk for infection. Only about 10% of women aged 18-26 are immunized with the HPV, influenza and pneumococcal vaccines. These vaccines have been widely publicized in the news media and the vaccination target which has been set for 90% is only about 10 %.

In recent years, there has been an increased rate of pertussis (whooping cough) even among adults. Only about 2% of adults aged 18-64 have been immunized against tetanus, diphtheria (for which a booster vaccine is available and recommended for those who received the DPT vaccine as children) and herpes zoster (to prevent shingles).

Attempts to encourage adults to accept new vaccines are the major problem of immunization designed programs.

Vaccination Recommendations: See your physician for advice

Vaccination information - call the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636) 24 hours/Every Day. Contact information for the different state immunization programs can be found here: (

1. Influenza Vaccine (Flu shots) - Administered during the fall months. All over age 50 and those with asthma, lung disease, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, HIV or pregnancy.

2. Pneumococcal vaccine for those over 65 and for younger people with similar disorders as for influenza vaccination.

There are about 5,000 deaths each year from pneumococcal pneumonia.

All adults 65 years or older should receive pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccination, which is highly cost-effective and prevents hospitalization and possible death from this bacterial form of pneumonia.

3. Human papillomavirus - HPV - to prevent cervical cancer - women 26 and younger. Over 6 million new human papillomavirus (HPV) infections and nearly 10,000 cases of cervical cancers occur annually in people needing immunizations. Cervix, vaginal, head and neck, and penile cancers are associated with human papilloma-virus.

A cervical cancer vaccination (HPV) program is also applicable for anal, penile and oropharyngeal cancers.

4. Hepatitis A for travelers in Africa, Asia, Latin America and those with chronic liver disease.

5. Hepatitis B for those who are sexually active, gay men, heterosexuals with many partners, frequent travelers, health care workers, and drug users. Those who share needles need both hepatitis A and hepatitis B vaccines.

6. Herpes zoster (shingles) for adults 60 years and for protection against a painful condition of blistering skin lesions. It is effective in 50% of vaccinated cases. The report from the Centers for Disease Control, (CDC), stated that there are over one million cases of shingles (herpes zoster) yearly in the U.S. Unfortunately, older adults are proving a tough target for a shingles' shot.

Only 1.9 percent of people older than 60, the group targeted for the shingles vaccine, have received vaccination for this painful condition, according to results from the CDS's National Immunization Survey. Merck Adult Vaccination Locator (

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