By Veronica Maciag

August is recognized as National Immunization Awareness Month. This observance, powered by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), works to emphasize the importance of vaccinations for people of all ages. Though many believe that vaccinations become negligible after your childhood or teenage years, there are actually a variety of immunizations to keep in mind throughout one’s life.

In April of 2023, the Cleveland Clinic released a comprehensive guide of the most significant vaccinations to get by age. A brief overview of immunizations for ages 1-16 is in the graph below.

Graph courtesy of Cleveland Clinic

After one’s teenage years, these requirements are much less rigid. Rather, there are just a standard few on which to stay up to date. Primarily, maintaining proper doses of the Chickenpox, Hepatitis B, HPV (human papillomavirus), MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella), and TD (tetanus and diphtheria) vaccines is heavily recommended for ages nineteen and up. Here, however, rather than adding new immunizations as one does in childhood, this just ensures upkeep to stay as protected as possible.

Yet the Cleveland Clinic has done more than just inform about the significance of receiving immunizations. Recently, it has been making significant breakthroughs in the pool of immunizations available. One notable story lies with a former patient named Jennifer Davis.

In 2018, Davis was officially diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer. This news led her to the Cleveland Clinic. As this form of cancer treatment is extremely limited, and in some cases impossible, Davis started exploring unique options. Luckily, the Cleveland Clinic had just begun a novel new study that aimed to aid, and eventually prevent, triple-negative breast cancer. The vaccine works by targeting lactic proteins to prompt the immune system to attack the tumor at first, or any, sign of cancer.

So, a few years later in 2021, Davis opted to be the first to try this study. Participants in this phase —1a— are patients who have undergone chemotherapy and radiation and are currently tumor-free but at high risk for recurrence. With this treatment, Davis received three total doses of the immunization, each two weeks apart. Though she was the first participant, the Cleveland Clinic’s efforts were successful, and Davis has now been cancer-free for two years.

From their success in 2021, Cleveland Clinic researchers have worked to push the limits of this vaccine even further. In February 2023, they launched the next step of this immunization: phase 1b. Partnered with Anixa Biosciences, Inc., the phase has expanded to include cancer-free individuals who are at high risk for breast cancer development. With this diversified pool, the Cleveland Clinic is on the way to becoming the first to develop an immunization that preliminarily prevents, and may eventually lead to curing triple-negative breast cancer.

Bringing awareness to the Cleveland Clinic’s immunization efforts is just one of the many benefits National Immunization Month has to offer. Additionally, it functions as an opportunity to explore and appreciate just how far development and advancement of immunizations have come and continue to improve every year. It also proves as a general reminder to maintain vaccinations and highlights their importance. Without vaccinations, infectious diseases that once proved deadly can now be beaten effortlessly, while other advancements are being made, as shown by stories like Davis’!