When we think about vaccinations, we typically think about the benefits to an individual. But the health of a community is reliant on the health of it members.
By protecting ourselves, we are also protecting others in our community who are unable to receive vaccinations, such as newborns who are too young to be vaccinated and those whose immune systems are suppressed after undergoing chemotherapy.
That's why it's critical to discuss the importance of vaccines not just every August during National Vaccine Awareness Month but, rather, year-round. This is especially true even for diseases that have been eliminated.
Take, for instance, measles.
Like so many other vaccine-preventable diseases, it's rare to find a case of measles these days in the United States. In fact, to date in 2015, there only have been 185 cases reported in this country. That's due in large part to the success of the measles vaccination program in the United States. Before that program began in the early 1960s, between 3 and 4 million people annually contracted measles -- resulting in about 500 deaths and nearly 50,000 hospitalizations each year.
But here's another fact provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta that bears repeating: Measles is so contagious that if one person has it, 90 percent of the people close to that person who are not immune will become infected. Infected people can spread measles to others from four days before through four days after the rash appears.
For diseases such as measles to stay eliminated and for our communities to remain healthy, it's imperative each member of the community receive vaccinations to ward off those illnesses. It's a decision we all are responsible for, especially since our individual decision can have such a large impact on others around us.