National Immunization Awareness Month
This August is National Immunization Month (NIAM)! NIAM is a time held in August every year to highlight and spread awareness of the importance of vaccinations for people at every stage of their life. Vaccinations play a crucial role in our health because they help protect us from numerous preventable diseases such as chickenpox, measles, pneumonia, shingles, flu, hepatitis, whooping cough, cancers caused by HPV, and many other ailments. Vaccinations are also a crucial topic for this month now that many people are heading back to their regular routines after spending many months at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Everyone must receive all the recommended vaccines to help keep themselves and others protected from various diseases (especially COVID-19). August is also the month when many children will be heading back to school after spending most of their last school year at home in an online class. It is important to make sure that our children’s health is at its best.
While parents must make sure that their children are up to date on all their vaccines, they still play a crucial role for people of all ages. One of the reasons why many people don’t hear as much about severe cases is due to the high immunization rates in the US. Thanks to vaccines, diseases such as polio, tetanus, or the flu don’t result in such serious health consequences. However, certain groups and other places in the world still struggle to vaccinate their people. Thus, it is important that we still work on spreading awareness on how crucial of role vaccines play in our health.
Vaccines play an important role for children because they work together with their natural defenses in building up protection against various diseases. Diseases such as pertussis (whooping cough) or measles are harmful to children younger than 2 years old. It is imperative that they receive their vaccines in a timely manner that their doctor recommends. While many parents may be afraid of the side effects vaccinations may have on some children and adolescents, trust that these vaccines have been tested and researched and are safe and effective. Vaccines are unlikely to cause serious illness. Instead, they help build the essential protection a child/adolescent needs against contagious diseases. According to the CDC, vaccinations help protect children/adolescents from 15 different diseases such as chickenpox, tetanus, polio, the flu, etc. For adolescents, one of the most important vaccines is the HPV vaccine because it protects them against cancers that can form due to being infected with the disease.
The CDC also points to a national survey that indicates that many adults are unaware that they need vaccines to help protect against serious diseases such as the flu, shingles, pertussis, and hepatitis. It is a significant issue because thousands of adults suffer, are hospitalized, and/or die from diseases (which can be prevented/made less severe with a vaccine). Even if you have received all the recommended vaccines as a child, some vaccines can wear off as months or years pass by (such as the flu vaccine). Thus, it is essential to continuously check with your physicians or other health care professionals to see if you are missing any vaccines. Many adults may also be at risk for other diseases due to their job, lifestyle, travel, or health conditions. Adults with health conditions that lead to a weakened immune system are encouraged to talk with their physician/health care professional to see what additional vaccines are recommended.
Two vaccines are routinely recommended during pregnancy: the flu shot and the Tdap vaccine. Vaccinations in pregnant women play a significant role because changes in someone’s heart, lungs, and immune system during pregnancy can increase the chances of getting sick from diseases (such as the flu). Due to changes in one’s body and immune system, pregnant individuals may be more at risk of developing complications with these diseases throughout their pregnancy. Getting vaccinated during pregnancy also helps protect newborn babies that are at a greater risk of developing life-threatening complications to diseases such as pertussis (whooping cough). Research has also shown that individuals who receive a vaccine can pass the antibodies to their baby after birth, which means that babies can have short-term protection from the flu and whooping cough until they can receive their vaccinations. We understand that it may be daunting to receive vaccinations while pregnant. Trust that experts have meticulously researched and concluded that these vaccines are safe for pregnant women and their babies. We encourage you to talk to your physicians or other health care professionals to gather more information and insight on vaccines if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant.
The Pandemic and Vaccinations:
NIAM this August is an important time to make sure that everyone is up to date on their vaccination schedule. The pandemic has led to many people postponing their regular check-ups and routine vaccinations- or their children’s. Thus, many individuals must make sure that they and their family members are up to date on their vaccines. This action is essential as many individuals start to return to their regular schedule/routine (and for those who may be more at risk of getting sick or developing a severe reaction to a disease). It is also important for children because they will be going back to in-person school after spending a majority (if not all) of their school year at home and online. It means that they will be re-entering into an environment where it will be easier for them to get sick. Thus, it is crucial for children to have their immune systems strengthened, along with the protection that vaccines provide against vaccine-preventable diseases (especially since COVID-19 vaccines are not available to children yet).
While vaccine-preventable diseases are still a threat, vaccinations are the best protection one can have against these diseases (and they can prevent/lessen the severity of how they will be affected). While the side effects may seem daunting to some individuals, it is unknown how severely an unvaccinated individual will be affected by vaccine-preventable diseases. As a community, getting vaccinated is a shared responsibility to help protect yourself and the community (especially individuals such as babies who are too young to get their vaccines) or those around you when you travel. This month we encourage everyone to talk to their physicians or health care professionals to ensure that you and your family are up to date on your vaccines.