North Jefferson News, Gardendale, AL

August 12, 2009

August designation underscores importance of immunizations for all age groups


Health Watch By Robert Ellis

Special to The North Jefferson News




The month of August is recognized as National Immunization Awareness Month.

The goal of this month is to increase awareness about immunizations across the ages, from infants to the elderly. August is the perfect time to remind family, friends, co-workers, and those in the community to make sure to get their vaccinations.

As we approach fall, parents are enrolling their children in school, high school graduates are going off to college and healthcare workers are preparing for the fast approaching flu season.

Now is the time of year to find out whether you and your family are up to date on your vaccinations. Take the opportunity to talk with your doctor about which immunizations you and each member of your family may need.



Why are immunizations important?

Immunization is one of the most significant public health achievements of the 20th century. Vaccines offer safe and effective protection and are among the most successful and cost-effective public health tools available for preventing disease and death.

It’s true that some diseases like polio and diphtheria are becoming very rare in the United States. Of course, they are becoming rare largely because we have been vaccinating against them. The number of cases of measles, rubella, whooping cough and many other diseases has been significantly reduced as well.

However, despite these efforts, every year people in the U.S. still die from these and other vaccine-preventable diseases.

Vaccinations are one of the best ways to put an end to the serious effects of certain diseases. Through the efforts of promoting vaccines, our children no longer have to receive the smallpox shot because the disease no longer exists. If we keep vaccinating now, in the future we may be able to trust that diseases like polio and meningitis won’t infect, cripple or kill our children.



Who should be immunized?

Getting immunized is a lifelong, life-protecting community effort regardless of age, sex, race, ethnic background or country of origin. Many vaccinations begin soon after birth and others are recommended during adolescent or adult years.

For certain vaccines, booster immunizations are recommended throughout life. Vaccines against certain diseases that may be encountered when traveling outside of the U.S. are recommended for travelers to specific regions of the world.

By staying up-to-date on recommended vaccines, individuals can protect themselves, their families, friends, and communities from serious, life-threatening infections.



When are they given?

Children under five years of age are especially susceptible to disease because their immune systems have not developed the necessary defenses to fight infection.

Therefore, most vaccines are given during the first five to six years of life. By immunizing on time, you can protect your child from disease and also protect others at school or daycare. If your child has been delayed in receiving his or her vaccines, there is a catch-up schedule to get him up-to-date quickly to reduce the risk of disease.

• Usual childhood vaccinations include: diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, measles, mumps, rubella, rotavirus, pneumococcal, poliovirus, varicella, hepatitis A & B, and influenza.

• Girls aged 11-12 years are encouraged to begin the Guardisil vaccination series to protect themselves against cervical cancer. They can take this injection up to age 26.

• First-year college students living in dormitories should receive a Menactra vaccination for protection from meningitis.

• For the over-60 age group, a single dose of the new Zostavax vaccine is recommended to protect against shingles. Additionally, those over 65 should receive a pneumococcal vaccine to help build their immunity against pneumonia.

Being aware of the vaccines that are recommended for infants, children, adolescents, adults of all ages and seniors and making sure that we receive these immunizations, are critical to protecting ourselves and our communities from disease.

A complete schedule of the recommendations for immunizations for each age group can be found on the CDC website at www.cdc.gov/vaccines/recs/schedules/default.htm.

Robert Ellis is a Pharm D candidate from Samford University’s McWhorter School of Pharmacy, interning at The Pharmacy in Mt. Olive. The Pharmacy can be reached at 631-1201.