Immunizations protect children, adults
August is National Immunization Awareness Month.
Even healthy people can become ill and pass diseases on to others. Vaccination is important because it protects the person getting the vaccine and helps prevent the spread of disease, especially to those who are most vulnerable such as infants, young children and the elderly. Being properly immunized spans a lifetime.
Vaccines are important to a healthy pregnancy. Women should be up-to-date with shots before getting pregnant especially if they have not received the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine. They should get an MMR one or more months before getting pregnant, because rubella can cause serious problems including pregnancy complications and birth defects. Pregnant women should also get the pertussis (whooping cough) vaccine during every pregnancy and be up-to-date with their annual flu vaccine.
Vaccines given on schedule protect babies and young children against 14 serious and even deadly diseases. Some diseases that once injured or killed thousands of children are no longer common in the United States — primarily due to safe and effective vaccines. Polio was once America's most feared disease, causing death and paralysis across the country. Today, thanks to vaccination, there are no reports of polio in the United States.
Child care facilities, preschool programs, schools and colleges are prone to disease outbreaks. Children in these settings can easily spread illnesses to one another due to poor hand washing, not covering their coughs and other factors related to interacting in crowded environments. Diseases spread easily to babies who are too young to be fully vaccinated and to people with weakened immune systems due to cancer and other health conditions.
Adolescents need four vaccines: Meningococcal to protect against meningitis and bloodstream infections, HPV (human papillomavirus) to protect against cancers caused by HPV, Tdap vaccine to protect against tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough and the annual influenza vaccine. Teens and young adults may also be vaccinated with a serogroup B meningococcal vaccine.
One of the most important things a parent can do to protect their children's health is to get them vaccinated on time. Whether parents have a baby starting at a new child care facility, a toddler heading to preschool, a student going back to elementary, middle or high school — or even a college freshman, they can send them off knowing they are protected from vaccine-preventable diseases by following the recommended immunization schedule.
Every adult should get one dose of Tdap vaccine, then receive a Td (tetanus and diphtheria) booster vaccine every 10 years. The adult recommendation at age 50 is to receive the shingles vaccine. Adults 65 and older should also get both pneumococcal vaccines. Adults may need other vaccines (such as hepatitis A, hepatitis B and HPV) depending on their age, occupation, travel or medical conditions.
Finally, everyone should get an annual influenza shot to protect against seasonal flu. Some people are at higher risk of serious flu complications so it is especially important they get vaccinated. This includes adults 65 and older, children younger than 5, pregnant women and people with certain long-term medical conditions like asthma, heart disease and diabetes.
Vaccinations do indeed cover an entire lifespan. Have a conversation with your healthcare provider about the vaccine schedule and which shots are important for you and your family members depending on your age and circumstances. Visit www.cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules/index.html for the vaccine schedules or call Horizon Public Health at 320-208-6672 with questions.
Marcia Schroeder is a registered nurse with Horizon Public Health, which serves five counties, including Douglas County. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.