Vaccines on Offense and Defense. A guest post from my friend, Dr. Lisa Costello.

For many, including me, football, fight songs, and colorful foliage are symbols of fall. As a pediatric hospitalist in Morgantown, the fall, however, serves as a sign of something else, something that’s not fun at all, the flu.

Flu can be a tough opponent for patients and health care providers. Fortunately, we have a game plan to help us fight it! The best way to prevent you or someone you love from catching the flu is by receiving the seasonal influenza vaccine this year and every year. Yes, the key to victory when it comes to fighting flu is getting a flu shot. In fact, the key to fighting many diseases is vaccination.

The best teams have a great offense and great defense, right? Vaccines are safe, effective, and the best way our bodies are able to score immunity (offense) to prevent illness from happening (defense.)

Vaccines have been part of the fabric of our society for decades and are the most significant medical innovation of our time. Vaccines prevent life-threatening diseases, like the flu, measles, diphtheria, polio, and hepatitis to name a few, and even prevent forms of cancer, notably cancer caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV). Vaccines keep communities healthy, and protect us all, including some of the most vulnerable in our society, including the elderly, children who are too young to be vaccinated or have compromised immune systems.

Routine childhood immunization is one of the crowning achievements in public health over the past century. Studies have estimated that childhood vaccination programs have prevented hundreds of millions of cases of diphtheria, hepatitis A, measles, mumps, pertussis, polio and rubella since 1924. Robust medical evidence continues to show that vaccines are safe. Vaccines are effective. Vaccines save lives.

However, challenges remain. Outbreaks of measles, pertussis, Hib, and other vaccine preventable diseases are returning. Numerous factors–including the cost of acquiring and administering vaccines, an increasingly complex delivery system, as well as a small but growing number of parents who are forgoing vaccination for their children–put success in jeopardy.

West Virginia, however, is leading the nation in an important public health measure: school-age vaccination rates. We do so because we have the nation’s strongest vaccination requirements for children in school. This is something to be proud of because we are all better off for it. Be part of a winning team, make sure your and your family’s vaccines are up to date.

This post was written by Lisa M. Costello, MD, MPH, FAAP. You can hear a conversation with her about vaccines on the Appalachian Health Podcast. Dr. Costello is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at West Virginia University, Vice-President of the WV Chapter – American Academy of Pediatrics and Treasurer of the WVSMA. You can follow West Virginian’s premier #tweetiatrician on Twitter at @LisaCostelloWV.

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