2018 marks the second school year in which children in Pennsylvania are required to have all their immunizations within five days of the new school year. Colli, chief medical officer at Keystone Health and lead physician at Keystone Pediatrics in Chambersburg, spoke with the PAMED Healthy Communities project to educate Pennsylvania students and their parents on the importance of vaccines.
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Common Questions About Vaccines

Dr-Michael-ColliAnswers from Michael Colli, MD, a pediatrician physician from Chambersburg, Pa.:

Why are vaccines important?

Vaccines are important because they protect us from communicable diseases, oftentimes deadly diseases. From a societal perspective, they help us eradicate diseases that are dangerous. Small pox is an example of a disease that was eradicated by a vaccine. It’s something that children of today don’t have to worry about.

How do vaccines work?

Vaccines work by tricking the body’s immune system into think you’re getting sick with the actual disease, but you’re not actually getting sick from it. The vaccine takes a small portion of the virus or bacteria, and that is what’s injected into the body. The immune system thinks that the full virus is present when, in reality, it isn’t. Not enough to get sick with the disease, but enough to trigger the immune response. And the idea is if you get enough booster doses then you can get lifelong immunity for that particular disease.

Are there any side effects?

Sometimes you can get a low-grade fever. What I like to tell parents is if they do get a low-grade fever, that’s a good sign. That means the body’s immune system is kicking in. They’re recognizing that there’s something foreign in their body. They’re not really getting sick from it, but their immune system is getting revved up.

Is naturally immunity better than vaccine immunity?

Natural immunity is when you actually contract the disease. You’re getting sick from it, and you’re getting better immunity. However, the reason why I would say natural immunity is not better than vaccine immunity is because many of the diseases are very dangerous. …  (A vaccine) is a very smart and sophisticated way to give ourselves immunity, but not putting the patient at any danger or risk of getting sick.

What is herd immunity and why is it important?

Herd immunity is the idea that if you vaccinate enough people, you’re reducing the burden of the disease in the entire community. So many people have been vaccinated that there’s not that much disease in the community left. You have to reach a threshold of about 90 percent of (people) vaccinated in order to achieve herd immunity.

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