Immunizations are a vitally important facet of our society, reducing the incidence of serious and sometimes even life-threatening infectious diseases. As one of the most important public health advancements of the 20th Century, immunizations have come a long way towards keeping the nation’s public healthy and protected. August has been deemed National Immunization Awareness Month to help highlight immunizations and immunization education to increase adherence and raise public awareness of the importance of immunizations throughout life.
Although immunizations are necessary for our children and infants, they are also important for adults, young and old alike, and are recommended throughout our lives to keep us in continued good health along the way. Even the healthiest adult is not impervious to communicable diseases, and illness can spread quickly. Without the aid of immunizations, a small outbreak can quickly become a public health crisis. Immunizations allow us all to do our part in keeping our nation safe from preventable diseases.
Elderly individuals, infants, and those with asthma, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), diabetes, heart disease, or weakened immune systems are at increased risk of complications if exposed to infectious diseases. Therefore it is important for all individuals to remain up-to-date on their immunizations.
Parents – Parents can help protect their children by ensuring they are up to date on their vaccines and promptly following the immunization schedule recommended for their child’s age. Currently, some vaccination rates are not meeting national public health goals. This puts children at increased risk of exposure and makes maintaining a proper immunization schedule even more essential to the health of each family.
Pregnancy – It’s important that pregnant women are up to date on their vaccines before pregnancy, and receive flu and whooping cough (pertussis) vaccines. Pregnant mothers experience physical changes that can make them more susceptible to severe bouts of the flu. These vaccines protect both the mother and the child during the critical 12 months of gestation.
Children – Daycare and school-age children are at increased risk for contracting infectious diseases. Because child care centers, classrooms, and playgrounds group together a high number of children, these areas pose an increased risk of exposure and transmission. From infants to young adults to those of college age, routine vaccines should be administered to help protect these individuals during school years when the risk of exposure is high.
Are Vaccines Safe?
Every vaccine in the United States is put through a barrage of safety testing before they are licensed and extended to the public. In fact, the United States has the safest, most effective vaccine supply to date. Vaccinations are the most cost-effective ways to prevent disease in today’s world, and the FDA and the CDC work hand-in-hand with healthcare providers throughout the United States to monitor vaccine safety and review reports of side effects. It’s important to note that most reported side effects from vaccinations are rare, mild, and temporary. Most often, these side effects merely result in redness, swelling, or tenderness at the shot site.
A healthy vaccine record equates to a healthy individual. Let’s take a look at each age range and the immunizations that are critical during these phases of life.
The first 12 months from inception to birth are a critical time for a mother and her unborn baby. And the best way to protect both individuals is to ensure that the mother is up to date on both the flu and whooping cough (Tdap) vaccines. These vaccines help provide the baby with some immunity, and this protection is vital during these first few months of life. Maternal antibodies pass protection to the newborn in the womb, and help prevent serious complications. Mothers who catch the flu or whooping cough while they are pregnant are at a much greater risk of passing it to their baby and as a result, experiencing pregnancy complications such as early labor and delivery.
Birth to Age 6
Childhood immunizations are an important part of setting up our youth for a healthy future. Early protection and timely immunization protects children before they have a chance to become exposed. These vaccinations protect against 14 serious and potentially fatal diseases, including: measles, hepatitis A and B, rotavirus, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, haemophilus influenzae type b, pneumococcal disease, polio, influenza, measles, mumps, rubella, and chickenpox.
Preteens and Teens
By the time children reach their preteen and teenage years, many of their childhood vaccines have begun to wear off. Booster doses help perpetuate these immunizations throughout their early adulthood. Preteens and teens require tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis, quadrivalent meningococcal conjugate vaccine, and HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccines. Young adults do not have the fortified immune system of adults, and are less equipped to handle infections such as HPV, meningitis, or septicemia. Timely vaccinations can offer parents the peace of mind that comes with preventable disease protection when sending their children off to school.
Each year adults suffer needlessly from diseases that could have easily been avoided if they had been properly vaccinated. Many adults don’t even consider the need for routine immunizations, but these adulthood vaccinations can offer valuable protection against pertussis, hepatitis, shingles and pneumococcal disease. Adults should receive an influenza vaccine each year along with the Td or Tdap vaccine if they did not receive it earlier in life. As well, the Td booster shot should be given every 10 years to protect against tetanus and diphtheria. Depending on their age, health status, vaccination history, and travel, some adults should also receive the shingles, pneumococcal, hepatitis, and HPV vaccines.
Daycares, playgrounds, schools, community centers, sports arenas, and other highly social areas put individuals at high risk for exposure to communicable diseases. With today’s advancements in immunization, there is no need to take on risk when it comes to the health of you, your family, or your neighbors. Routine and timely immunization is equally important to protecting not only the individual, but the community at large from preventable infectious diseases. When it comes to immunizations, protection for one means protection for all.
Contributed By: North County Health Services. NCHS Cares: From common colds to complex pregnancies, we’re here. www.nchs-health.org
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