Vaccines Prevent ‘Devastating Consequences of Diseases’

There have been no cases of polio in the United States in nearly four decades.

That’s because the disease was eliminated in the U.S. in 1979.

Smallpox once killed 35 percent of its victims and left others scarred or blind. It was eradicated across the world in 1980.

What ended them? Vaccines.

Vaccines have reduced disease, disability and death from a variety of infectious diseases and since August is National Immunization Awareness Month, the County Health and Human Services Agency is reminding San Diegans to vaccinate their children to keep them healthy.

“Because of vaccines, most parents have not seen first-hand the devastating consequences of diseases. Immunizations are the most important tool we have in public health,” said Sayone Thihalolipavan, M.D., M.P.H., County deputy public health officer. “Parents should make sure their children have all the recommended vaccines to protect them and those around them.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that children get vaccinated against 16 diseases.

Vaccine-preventable diseases are not that common in the United States—except influenza for which a vaccine is recommended for all children 6 months and older.

However, they continue to sicken people around the world, and outbreaks of diseases like pertussis, mumps and measles can and do happen in this country. In recent years, there have been outbreaks of measles and whooping cough, including the pertussis death of a 5-week-old San Diego infant in 2016.

According to the CDC, when children get vaccinated, an estimated 381 million illnesses, 24.5 million hospitalizations and 855,000 deaths will be prevented.

“Since all vaccines go through a rigorous approval process—by scientists, doctors and the federal government—they are safe and effective,” Thihalolipavan said. “It’s important that we continue to vaccinate our children to keep them from getting sick.”

Children who are 4 to 6 years of age are due for boosters of four vaccines: DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis), chickenpox, MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) and polio.

Preteens and teens need a Tdap booster shot to protect them against tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also recommends that teens get vaccinated against human papillomavirus and meningococcal disease. A yearly flu vaccine is recommended for all children 6 months and older.

Parents can obtain the vaccines for their children through their regular medical provider. People with no medical insurance can get vaccinated at a County public health center for free. Local retail pharmacies also offer some vaccinations for a fee.

For more information about the required back-to-school vaccines, call the Health and Human Services Agency Immunization Branch at (866) 358-2966, or visit To find the nearest County public health center or community clinic, call 2-1-1.

José A. Álvarez is a communications specialist with the County of San Diego Communications Office. Contact