Mind and Body: August is National Immunization Awareness Month
To raise awareness and to promote one of the most important preventive health measures available across the globe, August has been designated National Immunization Awareness Month by the National Public Health Information Coalition in conjunction with the Center for Disease Control.
The impact of timely vaccinations spans an individual’s life starting with what are commonly called “baby shots” through older adulthood when simple vaccinations may prevent many hospitalizations or even premature deaths in our elderly population.
Babies and young children
If completed according to the recommended schedule, vaccines or immunizations protect babies from 14 diseases by the time a child reaches age 2.
Vaccines have been proven safe and very effective, so much so most young parents in the U.S. have never seen the devastating effects measles, whooping cough or polio can have on a family or community.
However, because of some declines in vaccine administration by parental choice, measles and whopping cough have started to re-emerge as more common illnesses.
Once children start daycare or school, they can be exposed more readily to infectious illnesses, many of which are vaccine-preventable.
Disease prevention and keeping children healthy so they don’t miss school is the reason why states have laws regulating which vaccines children must have before entering school. Kentucky’s new law requiring all school-age children to have two doses of Hepatitis A six months apart is an example.
As parents are collecting school supplies and planning the year’s activities, it is as important to assess a child’s vaccine status to see if they have any gaps in their immunizations.
Preteens and teens
This age group is often over-looked when considering vaccinations.
Even when children get older, they still need protection from diseases, some of which are actually found to be cancer-causing.
The vaccine for human papillomavirus (HPV) infection can be cancer prevention because HPV has been implicated in several different cancers for children as they get older.
Often this age group lives in group settings whether they are visiting a summer camp or in a college dorm for the first time.
Meningitis can be spread when individuals are living together in close quarters.
Vaccines exist for the main two types of bacterial meningitis, and Kentucky just passed a new law requiring a booster of the Meningococcal vaccine for 16 year olds.
A woman wishing to become pregnant should consider her immunization status before she gets pregnant.
Making sure she has had the vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) before conception can prevent some pregnancy complications and birth defects.
Receiving a whooping cough vaccine during pregnancy can provide a newborn with antibodies to fight a potential life-threatening event if exposed to whooping cough.
It is also recommended any adult who will be spending any length of time with a newborn have an up-to-date whopping cough vaccine.
Older adults need vaccinations for protection as well.
The vaccine to prevent Shingles is recommended for all adults older than 50.
After age 65, two doses of pneumonia vaccine are recommended.
For anyone older than six months, a yearly flu shot is recommended unless an individual has had a bad reaction to influenza previously.
Across the lifespan, vaccines or immunizations play an important role in keeping individuals healthy.
If someone is traveling out of the country it’s good to see if there are any recommended special vaccines for visiting that part of the world.
As always, your health care provider will be a great resource on which vaccines are recommended or if there are any reasons not to receive specific ones.
For more resources visit cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules/easy-to-read/index.html or contact the Clark County Health Department at 744-4482 with any questions or concerns about vaccines.
Information taken from: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/events/niam.html.
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