August is National Immunization Month. The purpose of this observance is to highlight the importance of immunizations. While immunizations have significantly reduced the incidence of many serious infectious diseases, vaccination rates for some diseases are not meeting national public health goals. Everyone needs to be reminded the immunizations aren’t just for children. They are needed throughout our lifetime.
Take this month, which is full of school preparations, and make sure children are up to date with all their vaccines. Making certain our children are getting all of the recommendations is one of the most important things a parent can do to protect their children’s health. When children are not vaccinated, they are at increased risk for disease that can spread disease to others in their classroom and community. This includes babies who are too young to be fully vaccinated and individuals with weakened immune systems. Schools are highly susceptible to outbreaks of infectious diseases because students can easily transmit illnesses to one another as a result of poor hand washing, uncovered coughs, and dense populations.
Children ages 4 – 6 are due for boosters of four vaccines: DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis), chickenpox, MMR (Measles, mumps, rubella), and polio. Older children need TDAP (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis), MCV (meningococcal conjugate vaccine), and HPV (human papilloma virus) vaccines. A yearly flu vaccine is recommended for all children 6 months and older. Here are some key points to think about:
Immunizations create a shield of protection at school and at home. It is important to be protected against diseases that are very dangerous and contagious, such as pertussis (whooping cough).
Vaccines don’t just protect your children. Some diseases, like whooping cough, can be deadly for newborns and infants.
Diseases like measles and rubella are only a plane ride away. Measles epidemics are occurring in Great Britain, and rubella cases have skyrocketed in Japan.
Children that come down with diseases such as whooping cough, chicken pox, or the flue miss a lot of school while recovering. As a parent/guardian you will need to stay home and provide care and make trips to the doctor.
Although the vaccine schedule looks intimidating, it is based on the best scientific information available and provides doctors with information on administration of each vaccine.
Educate yourself. Learn the benefits and possible side effects of vaccines.
Check your child’s immunization record and schedule a visit to their physician or clinic. Doing so now will avoid a potential last minute rush and will help make sure there are no surprises on the first day back to school.
Most schools require children to be up to date on vaccinations before enrolling or starting school in order to protect the health of all students.
Take advantage of any visit to the doctor – check-ups, sick visits, even physical for sports or college, to ask the doctor about what shots your child may need.
Vaccines are thoroughly tested before licensing and carefully monitored even after they are licensed to ensure that they are safe. Vaccines are among the safest and most cost-effective ways to prevent and save money on expensive treatment or hospitalizations.