August is National Immunization Awareness month

  • Published
  • By Col. Christopher Spinelli
  • 932nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs

I’m quite confident we are all aware of immunizations. Our individual medical readiness (IMR) statistics reflect that we are and that we may have experienced a vaccination or two.

I thought it might be a good idea to reflect on what immunizations have done for us as humans. 

Infection and disease are a constant threat to how we go through life. Our immune system is designed to take in the offending agents and design a response to help prevent us from getting too sick. Certain illnesses and diseases, however, can make us sick faster than the immune system can adequately respond thus causing some significant disease and sequela. 

The idea behind the vaccination is to take a small amount of the offending agent and develop an immune system response to that pathogen early.  That way, when you’re actually exposed to the offending agent, naturally you already have your immune system ready to deal with it quickly and mitigate the severity of the infection.

From an illness prevention standpoint, I would argue that immunizations are second only in disease prevention to good hygiene and general cleanliness. Taking out your trash and keeping an area clean, prevent significant amount of illness and disease. Getting vaccinated helps prevent serious infections, even when cleanliness alone is not sufficient.

Immunizations are especially important to those of us in uniform service. Having our immune system ready for threats we are aware of helps us to continue the mission. Historically infectious disease is what stopped a significant number of military campaigns. We’ve done a decent job at mitigating infectious disease and illness over the past number of decades and immunization is a part of that.

Our body doesn’t need a vaccination for everything. Some illnesses are mild enough that the body responds adequately without any preparation ahead of time. The common cold is a good example. Some people have natural immunity from previous infections, which has already done the same thing that the vaccine is intended to do. Prepare the body for that threat in the future. These individuals would not require additional vaccination unless the natural immunity waned or is no longer protective. That situation may take some investigation by their physician.

Not everybody responds the same to vaccinations, therefore, monitoring your level of response is potentially needed depending on the environment that you will find yourself in. 

The concept and practice of immunizations across our globe have saved countless lives, especially young children, as well as prevented, innumerable cases of deafness, loss of limbs or eyesight, and improved the general health of our population.