By introducing minute amounts of potentially fatal viruses or bacteria to people, the medical community likely has saved lives.
But the creation and use of vaccines is not done.
Yampa Valley Medical Center physician Brian Harrington, who also has his master's degree in public health, has lived in Northwest Colorado less than two years, but he thinks vaccines are a health benefit that transcend city limit signs, state lines or country borders.
"Vaccines are a great story for health in the world," Harrington said.
Babies remain the primary benefactor of vaccinations, receiving injections for certain diseases within the first hours and years of life.
Newborns are now vaccinated against Hepatitis B, receiving a series of shots from infancy through adulthood. Newborns also receive diphtheria, tetanus and Pertussis vaccines together in the DtaP shot administered several times within the first year of life. The shot changes to Tdap at age 11.
Infants also can receive an influenza, or Hib shot, during the same juncture in life.
The standard polio and MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) viruses still exist and have produced astounding results, Harrington said. But the reason polio is still vaccinated against is because it hasn't been eradicated, he said.
"In the U.S., one of the best vaccines is Hib," Harrington said. "In the early 80s, there were still tens of thousands being infected, many who got meningitis. This virus was the No. 1 cause. Since we started the vaccine, we've knocked it out almost completely. : I'm a firm believer in vaccines. Some health care providers believe it's tantamount to child abuse if you don't get every shot when (they) say so."
Harrington acknowledged that some parents do not want their newborns to receive vaccines, and some adults discontinue shots they need to maintain their safeguard against certain diseases.
"There are state laws that state you have to have certain shots to be in daycare and in school," he said. "I understand people have concerns. I respect those who do, but one thing to tell them is our vaccines no longer have mercury. They are safe. We are trying to get that message out."
Newborns and toddlers are just two segments of the population the medical community has targeted with vaccines.
"I would say most recently, we are now targeting adolescents and teenagers," Harrington said. "We didn't five years ago."
The creation of a relatively new vaccine for the sexually transmitted disease Human Papillomavirus, otherwise referred to as HPV, has created enough of a stir that a commercial has been produced for network television to increase exposure.
HPV may cause abnormal Pap tests and can lead to cervix cancer. About 20 million people are infected with HPV, and at least 50 percent of sexually active men and women acquire HPV at some point, though most don't experience symptoms and will clear the infection on their own, according to www.cdc.gov.
"This could make abnormal Pap smears a thing of the past," Harrington said. "I think it's a big vaccine."
Harrington said the target demographic is 11- and 12-year-old females. That same age range is a common time to receive another meningitis and Pertussis shot.
"Pertussis causes whooping cough, which can be fatal," Harrington said. "People lose their immunity as they get older."
Tetanus shots should be received every five years.
Additionally, shots for senior citizens are being suggested, including one for herpes related to chicken pox, as well as a flu vaccine.
"Each year, we keep expanding our (need) for flu vaccine," Harrington said.
Insurance plans frequently cover vaccine costs.
"They are cheap," Harrington said. "Vaccines for a lot of providers are a money loser when you add up the time it takes and the supplies."