Why Immunize?

Why Immunize

Childhood immunization has been called our society's greatest health care achievement. The development and widespread use of vaccines has led to the reduction or eradication of once common childhood diseases. However, the viruses and bacteria that cause vaccine-preventable disease and death still exist and can be passed on to people who are not protected by vaccines.

See the chart below to get a brief understanding of how dangerous these diseases can be, and how immunizing against them protects children and saves lives. For more information about each disease, please click on the disease name. To view this chart as a PDF, please click here.




What it Does

Causes acute paralysis that can lead to permanent physical disability and even death. Visit this page to read a woman recount her struggle with polio at age 3.

Rash that can cause complications such as pneumonia, diarrhea or ear infections in 9% of those infected. Some develop encephalitis, which results in brain damage. Measles can be fatal, visit this page to read how it claimed the life of an unvaccinated boy in Great Britain.

Most common cause of bacterial meningitis in the U.S. before the vaccine. Led to deafness, seizures or mental retardation in those who survived the disease. Click here to learn how Hib devastated the life of one young girl.

Can lead to pneumonia, seizures, brain disease and death in infants. Results in prolonged coughing that lasts for many weeks, causing dehydration and vomiting. Click here to hear Dr. Sarah Long discuss Pertussis.

Usually mild in children and adults, up to 90% of infants born to infected mothers will develop congenital rubella syndrome (CRS), resulting in heart defects, cataracts, mental retardation and deafness. Read a case study on CRS here.

Always present in the community and highly contagious. Can be severe in some, leading to complications such as dehydration, pneumonia, and shingles. Children miss a week or more of school on average when infected with chickenpox. To view the story of 3 children who were unvaccinated aginst Varicella and died due to the Chicken pox, visit this page.

Infants and children who become infected with Hepatitis B are at the highest risk of developing life-long infection, which often leads to death from liver disease and liver cancer. To hear Dr. Meg Fisher discuss the importance of HepB vaccine, click here.

A serious disease caused by poison produced from the bacteria. It frequently causes heart and nerve problems. Diphtheria disease can also be fatal, this story tells of one child's death.

A severe, often fatal disease. Leads to stiffness and spasms of the muscles. Can cause the throat to close, and spasms can cause fractures. To learn more about the risks to those who remain unvaccinated, click here.

Once a major cause of deafness in children, occurring in approximately 1 of every 20,000 cases reported. Can cause swelling of the brain, nerves and spinal cord that can lead to paralysis, seizures and fluid in the brain. This story of a camp counselor who spread mumps to 30 others, shows the importance of everyone being vaccinated.


Smallpox is a serious, contagious, and sometimes fatal infectious disease. There is no specific treatment for smallpox disease, and the only prevention is vaccination. The pox part of smallpox is derived from the Latin word for “spotted” and refers to the raised bumps that appear on the face and body of an infected person.

The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. Some people, such as older people, young children, and people with certain health conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, or heart disease), are at high risk for serious flu complications. Read this family story on how a young boy was hopsitalized due to the flu.

Symptoms of pneumococcal disease include pneumococcal pneumonia (high fever, cough, and shortness of breath), bacteremia (fever and feeling generally poorly), and meningitis (fever, headache, thinking slowly or not clearly). Read this family story about a baby boy who contracted pneumococcal meningitis.

Hepatitis A is a serious liver disease. Hepatitis A can cause,
flu-like illness, jaundice, severe stomach pains and diarrhea (children). Some who contract Hepatitis A will die each year. To learn how debilitating this virus can be, read this story.

HPV is the most common sexually transmitted virus in the United States. HPV can cause cervical cancer in women, and is associated with several less common cancers, in both men and women. This is the story of young woman who lost her fertility to cervical cancer.

Rotavirus is a virus that causes diarrhea (sometimes severe), mostly in babies and young children. It is often accompanied by vomiting and fever, and can lead to dehydration. To read a story of rotavirus infection, click here.

Meingococcal bacteria is another cause of Meningitis, a serious infection of the covering of the brain. It can also cause blood infection. 10-15% of Meningitis cases cause death, of survivors 11-19% will lose their arms and/or legs, become deaf, mentally retarded, or suffer seizures or strokes. Read this family story to learn how quickly Meningitis took the life of a teenage boy.


Letter from Dr Brown

Practicing pediatrician and mom Ari Brown, MD, FAAP, writes a letter to the Washington Post about the dangers of not vaccinating, including the story of a young girl who died due to chicken pox, before a vaccine was available for the disease.


Unprotected People Reports

Link to case reports, personal testimonies, newspaper and journal articles about people who have been affected by vaccine-preventable diseases. (Exit Site)


For More Information

Find additional information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Exit Site)


Amy's Story

Spotlight on HealthAmy Pisani shares how her son became dangerously ill with influenza as a toddler.



Last Updated: 6/26/2013

Contact Us | Privacy Statement | About Us | Home
American Academy of Pediatrics, 141 Northwest Point Blvd., Elk Grove Village, IL, 60007, 847-434-4000