09/05/2014 05:48 pm ET Updated Nov 05, 2014

A Doctor's Perspective: How to Help Protect Yourself and Your Family Against Vaccine-Preventable Illnesses

Vaccines are one of the greatest public health accomplishments, and they have led to the significant reduction of several infectious disease in the United States. However, in recent years, vaccination rates have decreased, and vaccine-preventable illnesses are making a comeback. [1] In the United States, for the period Jan. 1 - May 23, 2014, cases of measles have reached a 20-year high. [2] Children and adults are being diagnosed with pertussis (otherwise known as whooping cough) at alarming rates throughout the country. [3] And as of August 2014, nearly 500 cases of mumps have been associated with community outbreaks in Ohio. [4]

As kids are heading back to school, it is extremely important for parents to check that their kids are up to date on their immunizations. Vaccinating your child is one of the best things you can do to help protect him or her from serious diseases. [5] An analysis recently published in Pediatrics concluded that if all U.S. children born in 2009 followed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) recommended childhood immunization schedule, approximately 42,000 early deaths and 20 million cases of infectious disease would be prevented. [6]

Infants, children and adolescents aren't the only ones who need vaccinations -- adults do too. [7] By immunizing yourself against vaccine-preventable diseases, you can help reduce your risk of getting infected and, in turn, help reduce the risk of spreading the infection to others. [5] All adults should be up to date on influenza (flu), Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and acellular pertussis), and varicella (chickenpox) vaccinations.

The CDC recommends that all eligible members of your family who are 6 months of age and older, with rare exception, be immunized annually with the influenza vaccine. Adults are also advised to receive a single dose of the Tdap vaccine, then a Td booster vaccine every 10 years. The CDC recommends additional vaccines for adults based on certain risk factors related to age, health status and lifestyle. Those include vaccines for pneumonia, meningococcal meningitis, hepatitis A, hepatitis B and Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib). [7] To find out which vaccines are recommended for adults and why, see the complete CDC-recommended U.S. adult immunization schedule at, and talk to your doctor about which vaccinations are important for you to receive.

As a mom and a medical advisor to March of Dimes, I want moms to trust themselves in making the best health decisions for themselves and their family members. Getting their children and themselves vaccinated on time is an important part of keeping the entire family healthy. Immunizations are one of the best ways to help keep children healthy and to help protect them from disease. So check that everyone in your family is up to date on vaccinations as part of your back-to-school preparation this year.


To increase awareness about the importance of vaccinations for the entire family, March of Dimes has been working with Sanofi Pasteur on the Word of Mom: Celebrating Generations of Healthy Advice Campaign to help empower moms to make the best health decisions for themselves and their families. This includes following the recommended CDC vaccination schedule. Word of Mom offers resources, tools and advice from moms across the generations, including graphics and personal stories you can share with your friends and family members about the importance of immunizations.

Protect your family by making sure everyone is up to date on all recommended vaccinations. For more information about the importance of immunizations and the Word of Mom Campaign, please visit


1. CDC. Immunization Strategies for Healthcare Practices and Providers. The Pink Book: Course Textbook. 12th Edition Second Printing. May 2012. Accessed on August 14, 2013.

2. CDC. Measles - United States, January 1-May 23, 2014. MMWR 2014:63(22);496-499. Accessed on August 14, 2014.

3. CDC. Pertussis (Whooping Cough) Fast Facts. Accessed on August 14, 2014.

4. City of Columbus Department of Public Health. Mumps Community Outbreak-Update. Accessed on August 14, 2014.

5. CDC. Protect your Baby with Immunization. Updated on April 25, 2014. Accessed on August 14, 2014.

6. Zhou F, Shefer A, Murphy T, et al. Economic evaluation of the routine childhood immunization program in the United States, 2009. [Published online ahead of print March 3, 2014]. Pediatrics. doi:10.1542/peds.2013-0698.

7. CDC. Recommended Adult Immunization Schedule - United States - 2014. Updated February 1, 2014. Accessed on August 14, 2014.