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Jul 26

August is National Immunization Awareness Month

August is National Immunization Awareness Month.  The purpose of this observance is to highlight the importance of immunizations, one of the top 20 public health accomplishments of the 20th century, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

While immunizations have significantly reduced the incidence of many serious infectious diseases, vaccination rates for some diseases are not meeting national public health goals.  Immunizations aren’t just for children.  They are needed throughout our lifetime.

Babies from Birth to Age 2      Vaccines give parents the safe, proven power to protect their children against 14 serious diseases before they turn 2 years old. Every dose of vaccine is important to protect against infectious diseases like the flu, measles and whooping cough (pertussis) that can be life-threatening for newborns and young babies. You can provide the best protection by following the recommended immunization schedule – giving your baby every vaccine she needs, when she needs it – and by making sure those who will be around your baby are vaccinated, too.

Pregnancy is a great time to plan for your baby’s immunizations – and to make sure you have the vaccines you need to protect yourself and pass protection from some diseases to your baby during the first few months of life. In addition to the vaccines recommended for adults, women need to have a flu shot every year, and the Tdap vaccine to protect against whooping cough with every pregnancy.

Whooping cough is a highly contagious respiratory disease that is often thought of as a disease of the past. While we no longer see the number of cases we did before the vaccine was available, it is a growing health concern. The U.S. experienced a nearly 60-year record high number of cases in 2012, with preliminary data showing more than 41,000 reported cases and 18 deaths.

Children, Preteens & Teens      Preparing for school means gathering supplies and back packs. It’s also the perfect time to make sure children are up to date on their vaccines. Getting all of the recommended vaccines is one of the most important things parents can do to protect their children’s health.

When children are not vaccinated, they are at increased risk for disease and can spread disease to others in their classroom and community – including babies who are too young to be fully vaccinated, and people with weakened immune systems due to cancer and other health conditions. Schools are highly susceptible to outbreaks of infectious diseases because students can easily transmit illnesses to one another as a result of poor hand washing, uncovered coughs and dense populations.

Children age 4 to 6 are due for boosters of four vaccines: DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis), chickenpox, MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) and polio. Older children – like preteens and teens – need Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis), MCV (meningococcal conjugate vaccine) and HPV (human papilloma virus) vaccines. A yearly flu vaccine is recommended for all children 6 months and older.

Off to College – Young Adults      Vaccines are not just for children. Immunizations are needed throughout your adult life to help you stay healthy. That’s because immunity from childhood diseases may wear off over time, and you may also be at risk for other vaccine-preventable diseases.

Getting ready for college means making sure you are up to date on all doses of the recommended vaccines – both to protect yourself and others around you. Because some diseases can spread quickly in settings like college dorms and classrooms, many colleges and universities have vaccination entry requirements.

Everyone age 6 months and older should have a flu shot every year. And every adult should get the Tdap vaccine once, to protect against pertussis (whooping cough), tetanus, and diphtheria and then a Td (tetanus, diphtheria) booster every 10 years. The HPV vaccine is recommended for boys and girls ages 11-12. Young women and men who have not started or finished the HPV vaccine series may be vaccinated through age 26. Meningococcal vaccine is recommended for young adults, especially students who will be living in dorms.

Your need for other vaccines depends on factors such as your childhood vaccination history, travel plans, personal health status and risks.

Adults Need Vaccines Too      Many adults don’t realize they still need protection against vaccine-preventable diseases. But vaccines are not just for kids. Adults still need certain vaccines, both to protect themselves and their loved ones.

Even healthy adults can become seriously ill, and can pass illness on to others. Immunization is especially important for adults 60 years of age and older, and for those who have a chronic condition such as asthma, COPD, diabetes or heart disease. Immunization is also important for anyone who is in close contact with the very young, the very old, people with weakened immune systems, and those who cannot be vaccinated.

The vaccines adults need change as they grow older. Everyone age 6 months and older should have a flu vaccine every year. And every adult should get the Tdap vaccine once — including women each time they are pregnant — to protect against pertussis (whooping cough), and then a Td (tetanus, diphtheria) booster shot every 10 years. Other vaccines for adults – shingles, pneumococcal, hepatitis, HPV – depend on one’s age, occupation, travel, risk factors and health status.