Lately, many people who are concerned about the threat of bioterrorism have been asking me for my position on smallpox immunizations. I agree with the U.S. government here. The smallpox vaccine itself is relatively dangerous. And, for the general public, the risks outweigh the benefits. But there are diseases that pose a much larger threat than smallpox — diseases that are preventable with safe and proven vaccines. Too many people have not kept these immunizations up-to-date.
In most cases, they are not aware that they are no longer protected — or that vaccines for the hepatitis viruses (which did not exist when we were children) are now available. Many alternative-health practitioners are against vaccines. I must side with conventional medicine on this one. Vaccines have wiped out many of the ancient scourges of society. (Think tetanus and polio.) They have saved millions of lives and have prevented crippling diseases for many more people.
The best medicine strives to prevent disease. It uses the most natural effective therapies available. Vaccines do both of these things. For those in alternative medicine to dismiss them as just another pharmaceutical solution is like throwing out the baby with the bath water. By the age of 2, most children today receive vaccines for diphtheria, tetanus, polio, measles, mumps, rubella, chicken pox, and hepatitis B.
Childhood immunization is a matter of social responsibility as well as personal safety. There are also many vaccines for infectious diseases in adults. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommend that you consider those listed below.
Your age, lifestyle, and occupation will determine the best vaccination schedule for you:
* Diphtheria and Tetanus. You need a booster shot every 10 years. Don’t wait to step on a rusty nail to get protected.
* Influenza. Influenza and pneumonia combined make up the seventh-leading cause of death in the United States. If you are over 65, they move up to fifth. You can easily minimize your risk with annual immunization. Get your flu shot every flu season if you are 50 or older. Get a pneumonia shot if you have ever had pneumonia. You should also consider it if you have lung, kidney, or liver disease or diabetes or if you are over 65. (The risk of death from pneumonia increases over the age of 65.)
* Hepatitis B. You can catch hepatitis B by blood exchange or sexual contact. IV drug use, high-risk sexual behavior, and work exposure increase your risk. This vaccine is now required for children entering school. Evaluate your own risk with your doctor.
* Hepatitis A. You can catch hepatitis A through any contact with an infected person or by eating or drinking contaminated food or water. The vaccine is easy and effective.
* Measles, Mumps, and Rubella. You should get this vaccine if you didn’t get it as a child or if your vaccination history is unreliable. These illnesses can be serious for adults. Use this list as a guideline when you discuss your own personal medical history with your doctor to come up with the immunization plan that is best for you.
Editorial Note: Dr. Al Sears is editor of Health Confidential for Men a publication devoted to men’s health. Click here: http://www.agora-inc.com/reports/BUL/Early2Rise1/