Whether you’re watching television, reading news articles or scrolling through your social media feed, it seems a new story about vaccines pops up daily.

Earlier this month, Newsweek shared a 2018 report by the American Public Health Association that showed social media bots and Russian trolls spread misinformation and propaganda against vaccinations.

Individual cases of measles — a disease that was declared eliminated in the United States in 2000 — have been confirmed in 10 states this year alone, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The World Health Organization listed “vaccine hesitancy” as one of its 10 threats to global health in 2019.

The World Health Organization listed “vaccine hesitancy” as one of its 10 threats to global health in 2019.

So why, all of a sudden, has there been so much talk about vaccines?

“I think there’s a lot of misunderstanding when it comes to vaccines. Vaccines have been proven for decades that they are effective and they save lives,” says Aishah Ali, a board-certified allergist and immunologist at UCF Health, the clinical practice of UCF’s College of Medicine. “As healthcare professionals, we can do a better job educating our patients about the vaccines that are important to their health and the health of their loved ones.”

Through her work, Ali educates patients about different vaccines and the benefits to their health.

She stresses that there is a shared goal between patient and doctor to achieve optimal health while also lowering the patient’s risk for disease. It’s a trust-based relationship, and patients should feel confident in their doctor’s advice to achieve that goal.

“If you have questions about vaccines, ask your doctor,” she says. “They are the best resource to ensure that patients get accurate information tailored to their unique health needs.”

Ali shares insight on some of the frequently asked questions she receives from patients regarding vaccination.

What are the pros of getting vaccinated?

We are fortunate to live in a time when vaccines are the safest that they’ve ever been and can protect us from a multitude of diseases, including certain cancers. These are diseases that can have serious implications to your quality of life and even cause death. When you vaccinate, you not only protect yourself, but your loved ones and the general population, as well.

What are the cons?

In my opinion, there are no cons of getting vaccinated. In general, any medication will have a side effect. With vaccines, this can include some arm swelling at the injection site, a mild fever, and maybe make you feel a little tired. These minor side effects are well worth the benefit of being protected against a potentially fatal illness.

Why should I get vaccinated if I am willing to take the risk of getting the disease?

There are certain populations, such as very young children or very old adults or individuals with immunodeficiency, who are unable to get certain vaccines. When you are vaccinated, you help stop the spread of the disease and protect these special populations.

For example, let’s say a child is too young to get the measles vaccine, but a parent of a 3-year-old, who was recommended the measles vaccine, chose not to vaccinate their child. If that 3-year-old gets measles and comes into contact with the younger child who is not eligible for the MMR [measles, mumps, rubella] vaccine yet, the younger child can get measles. Had the 3-year-old been vaccinated, it’s very unlikely either child would have gotten measles. This approach to protecting at-risk populations is referred to as “herd immunity.” It’s a way of protecting our mass populations from epidemics, which are unfortunately being created now because of vaccine hesitancy.

Should adults be getting vaccines? Which ones?

“Adults definitely should be getting vaccines, and they should be having conversations with their doctor about them.” — Aishah Ali, UCF Health board-certified allergist and immunologist

Yes, adults definitely should be getting vaccines, and they should be having conversations with their doctor about them. Having an entire visit to talk about vaccines with your doctor is completely appropriate. I do it all the time with my patients.

Specific to adults, I recommend everyone get the flu vaccine. Over the last several years we have seen periods where flu was more active and it was affecting young, otherwise healthy populations.

There are two vaccines that prevent cancer. One of them is the hepatitis B vaccine, which can help prevent liver cancer. The other is the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, which has been found to help decrease cervical cancer, anal cancer and throat cancers. In October, the Food and Drug Administration broadened who was eligible for the HPV vaccine to now include women and men up to age 45. If you are age appropriate, I recommend these vaccines because anything that prevents cancer is great.

Anyone that has any sort of lung disease — such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or other conditions — should all get a pneumonia vaccine. That also goes for anyone with a cardiac condition — high blood pressure is an example — or people who have a rheumatologic disease like lupus or rheumatoid arthritis – or other high-risk conditions. The pneumonia vaccine is very safe and very effective.

Pregnant women in their third trimester and anyone who will be around small children, including fathers and grandparents, should get their Tdap [tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis]  booster. This helps to decrease the risk of whooping cough, which has become more prevalent in the last several years.

Where can people find credible vaccine information?

First, talk to your doctor because they know your unique healthcare needs. The Centers for Disease Control (cdc.gov) is an excellent resource to learn more about specific vaccines. The National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (nfid.org) is a great resource, as well. And the American Academy of Pediatrics (aap.org) is an excellent resource for vaccines as they relate to children.