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Vaccines are among the most proven, effective prevention strategies in health care. They reduce the risk of infection by working with the body's natural defenses to help it safely develop immunity to disease. The diseases that vaccines prevent can be dangerous, or even deadly.

But, Washington is seeing the re-introduction of diseases, such as measles, formerly considered under control. In 2015, we saw the first death in Washington state from measles in 12 years. Pertussis, commonly known as whooping cough, has also been a real problem, striking mostly school-age children and teens, with infants most at risk. In 2015, the number of cases of pertussis tripled in one year.

Vaccinations are not only about preventing childhood diseases. They can also prevent cancer. Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the leading cause of cervical and anal cancers. Vaccinating adolescent girls and boys before they become sexually active can break the link and prevent diseases from occurring.

By the age of two, children should receive vaccines for diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, measles, mumps, rubella, hepatitis A and B, chicken pox, rotavirus, pneumococcal and influenza.

By the age of 13, adolescents should receive vaccines for meningococcal, human papillomavirus and a booster for tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis.

An annual vaccine for influenza is recommended for everyone 6 months and older and adults over the age of 65 should receive a one-time vaccine for pneumococcal.

Compare scores for vaccinations

What can patients do?

  • Vaccines are an important part of preventive care.
  • Knowing which vaccines you or your child needs is an important step toward protecting your health and that of your family and friends. Getting vaccines on time helps prevent illness before you’re exposed.
  • Talk to your doctor about which vaccines are needed at different times of life.

Visit Own Your Health to help you make informed health care decisions.

What should your doctor do?

  • Answer your questions about vaccines.
  • Give you a vaccine schedule, which tells you which vaccines you or your loved one should be getting and when you should get them.
  • Tell you the risks of not getting vaccinated.