The Value of Vaccines

February 26, 2019

“Vaccines are one of our best tools for prevention and health protection,” said Dr. Pamela Payne-Foster, a professor of Community Medicine and Population Health at the College of Community Health Sciences and a preventive medicine physician.

During a presentation as part of Mini Medical School, the College’s collaborative program with The University of Alabama OLLI program, Payne-Foster said vaccines have eradicated such infectious diseases as small pox, polio and measles – although she noted that some diseases, like measles “are creeping back because there are fewer mandatory vaccination requirements.”

“The benefits of vaccines are greater than the risks,” she said, adding that prior to the small pox vaccine, the disease killed up to 80 percent of children infected and up to 60 percent of adults.

Speaking to an audience largely comprised of senior citizens, Payne-Foster listed four vaccines that seniors should prioritize: flu, pneumonia, shingles and tetanus. She said pneumonia and other respiratory illnesses increase as people age, so vaccines to protect against flu and pneumonia are important. In addition, those with chronic health conditions, such as diabetes, are at risk for infectious diseases because their immune systems are already compromised.

Vaccines work by stimulating the immune system to guard against a pathogen, and they can prevent infectious diseases, especially when a sufficiently large percentage of the population is vaccinated.

“Prevention is good for everyone, especially seniors,” Payne-Foster said. “You need to protect your health and the health of those around you by getting the recommended vaccines.”

The Mini Medical School program has been put on by faculty and resident physicians of the College since 2016. It provides an opportunity for adults and community learners to explore trends in medicine and health, and the lectures offer important information about issues and advances in medicine and research.