News

Jul 30, 2013

August is National Immunization Awareness Month


It’s almost impossible to miss the news of the birth of Prince George, the newest heir to the British throne.  The birth of any child is a major event in any family and for our community.  If there is a newborn in your own family, that news is just as exciting and important to you as it is to Will and Kate.  Since the National Public Health Information Coalition has proclaimed August to be “National Immunization Awareness Month,” there are some important reminders for children of all ages.

Category: News Room
Posted by: Craig

It’s almost impossible to miss the news of the birth of Prince George, the newest heir to the British throne.  The birth of any child is a major event in any family and for our community.  If there is a newborn in your own family, that news is just as exciting and important to you as it is to Will and Kate.  Since the National Public Health Information Coalition has proclaimed August to be “National Immunization Awareness Month,” there are some important reminders for children of all ages.

Preventing disease is important for our youngest children

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 babies.

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 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.

Back to School

Although it’s only been a few weeks since school ended, the stores are already full of “back to school” ads and we are frequently reminded on television and other media that school will be starting around Labor Day.  While most school supplies or new clothes can be obtained at a moment’s notice from the nearest mall, there are some things that may require an appointment with your family physician or, at least, a visit to the nearby Minute Clinic at CVS or a community health center.  One of the most important is to obtain the appropriate vaccinations.

Preparing for school is 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.

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 pre-teens and teens – need Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis), MCV (meningococcal conjugate virus) and HPV. A yearly flu vaccine is recommended for all children 6 months and older.

Leaving for College

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.

Even healthy young adults need to get vaccinated against diseases like the flu, whooping cough and HPV (human papilloma virus). Meningococcal vaccines is recommended for students who will be living in dorms. Your need for other vaccines depends on factors such as your childhood vaccination history, travel plans, and your personal health status and risks.

Disease Prevention is Important for Adults, too

Many adults don't realize they still need protection against vaccine-preventable diseases. Even healthy adults can become seriously ill, and can pass illness on to others. Immunization is especially important for older adults, 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 shot every year. And every adult should get the Tdap vaccine once, to protect against pertussis (whooping cough), and then a Td (tetanus, diphtheria) booster every 10 years. Other vaccines for adults – shingles, pneumococcal, hepatitis, HPV – depend on one's age, occupation, travel, risk factors and health status.

While everyone is enjoying the summer – and hopefully, avoiding other health risks like Sunburn, mosquito and tick bites, Poison Ivy, swimming and traffic accidents – don’t forget to plan for a health fall season as well.

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Senator Richard T. Moore is the President Pro Tem of the Massachusetts Senate and represents fourteen towns in South Central Massachusetts.  He is the former long-time Senate Chairman of the Legislature’s Committee on Health Care Financing and is a leading advocate of wellness and prevention efforts to help contain the rising costs of health care.