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Immunization with Vaccines

The greatest health achievement of the past century has been the control of devastating, epidemic, infectious diseases by immunization (vaccination). Edward Jenner invented immunization when he inoculated an eight year old boy with scrapings of cowpox lesions. Jenner had noted the similarity of cowpox and small pox lesions, and was observant enough to notice that milkmaids, exposed to cow pox lesions on the teats of cows, did not get smallpox.

Two hundred years later one major viral disease, smallpox infections, were eradicated from the planet. This masterful success of immunization was achieved by the World Health Organization (WHO) by the relentless vaccination of all people who came in contact with the disease, until the smallpox virus had no vulnerable hosts to infect. The smallpox virus is incapable of an independent existence. With no remaining human hosts, the virus is unable to reproduce.

Diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus, measles, mumps, influenza, typhoid, cholera, yellow fever, hepatitis, and polio are among the diseases now controlled by immunization.

An Expert Panel of the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) published revised guidelines for immunization. Vaccines licensed since 2002 include human papillomavirus vaccine; live, attenuated influenza vaccine; meningococcal conjugate vaccine; rotavirus vaccine; tetanus toxoid, reduced diphtheria toxoid, acellular pertussis vaccine and herpes zoster vaccine.

New combination vaccines that have become available are 1 measles, mumps, rubella, and varicella vaccine; 2 tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis and inactivated polio vaccine; 3 tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis and inactivated polio/Haemophilus influenzae type b vaccine.

For young children, hepatitis A vaccines are recommended. All children aged 6 months through 18 years and adults who are 50 years or older should receive annual influenza vaccines.

Worldwide, rotavirus is the leading cause of severe gastroenteritis in children less than 5 years of age. Rotavirus is a deadly disease in the developing world that vaccination may prevent. A human-bovine rotavirus vaccine, RotaTeq® was recommended in 2006 by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices for routine vaccination of U.S. infants. Three doses of RotaTeq at ages 2, 4, and 6 months are required.