Mind and Body: National Immunization Awareness Month

By Jennifer Burchett

Clark County Health Department

August is National Immunization Awareness Month.

National Immunization Awareness Month, created by The National Public Health Information Coalition and the Center for Disease Control, raises awareness and promotes one of the most important preventive health measures available across the globe: vaccinations.

The impact of timely vaccinations spans an individual’s life.

It starts with what is commonly called “baby shots” and continues throughout adulthood when vaccinations may prevent hospitalizations or even premature deaths in our elderly population.

Babies and young children

Vaccines or immunizations protect babies from 14 diseases by the time a child reaches age 2 if completed according to the recommended schedule.

Vaccines are safe and effective.

Most young parents in the U.S. have never seen the devastating effects that measles, whooping cough or polio can have on a family or community.

However, due to some declines in vaccine administration by parental choice, measles and whooping cough have started to reemerge as more common illnesses.

School-age children

Once children start into day care or school, they can be exposed more readily to infectious illnesses, many of which are vaccine-preventable.

States have laws regulating which vaccines children must have before entering school.

The regulations help prevent the spread of diseases and keep children healthy, so they don’t miss school.

Kentucky’s new law requiring all school-age children to have two doses of hepatitis A six months apart is an example.

Besides back-to-school shopping and planning, it’s also essential to assess a child’s vaccine status to see if they have any gaps in their immunizations.

Preteens and teens

Parents and guardians often overlook this age group when thinking about vaccinations.

Even when children get older, they still need protection from diseases, some of which are 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 going off to live in a college dorm for the first time.

Meningitis can spread when individuals are living together in close quarters.

Vaccines exist for the two main types of bacterial meningitis, and Kentucky just passed a new law requiring a booster of the Meningococcal vaccine for 16-year-olds.

Pregnant Women

A woman wishing to be 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 congenital disabilities.

Receiving a whooping cough vaccine during pregnancy can provide a newborn with antibodies to fight a potentially life-threatening event if exposed to whooping cough.

The CDC also recommends adults spending time with a newborn have an up to date whooping cough vaccine.

Older Adults

Older adults need vaccination for protection as well.

The CDC also recommends a vaccine to prevent Shingles for all adults over 50, and after age 65, two doses of the pneumonia vaccine.

And for all individuals over the age of 6 months, a yearly flu shot is recommended unless an individual has had an adverse reaction to influenza previously.

Across the life span, vaccines or immunizations play an essential role in keeping individuals healthy.

If someone plans to travel out of the country, check for specific vaccines recommended for visiting that part of the world.

Your health care provider can recommend vaccines or if there are any reasons not to receive specific ones.

Contact the Clark County Health Department for any questions or concerns about vaccines at 859-744-4482.