Back-to-school season is here, which means haircuts, textbooks, new shoes and clothing – and most important, a visit to the doctor for routine immunizations.
Immunizations, or vaccines, help protect your health by building immunity to disease. Some vaccines – such as those received in childhood – are needed only a few times for lifelong protection, and others must be repeated annually to protect against recurring illnesses, such as the flu.
August is National Immunization Awareness Month. Protect yourself and the ones you love by making sure you’re up to speed on the vaccines that you and your family need to stay healthy.
Parents of young children can ask your pediatrician for guidance on the immunizations your child needs from birth to age 18. Your doctor will administer the appropriate vaccinations or boosters needed for school or sports and to maintain good health during your child’s annual physical. These vaccinations are based on the guidelines of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) or the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) and protect against diseases ranging from chickenpox to measles and mumps.
From birth to age 12, your child will receive one or more of the following vaccines:
• Hepatitis A and B
• Diphtheria, tetanus, & pertussis (whooping cough) (DTaP)
• Bacterial meningitis (Hib)
• Pneumococcal vaccine
• Measles, mumps, rubella (MMR)
• Chickenpox (varicella)
• Human papillomavirus (HPV)
• Meningococcal vaccine (meningitis)
“Vaccines help to protect a child as they grow and develop by providing acquired immunity to diseases that could be quite serious and in some cases, deadly,” says Joyce Noe, RN, Infection Prevention and Control at Logan Memorial Hospital. “Vaccines prevent a disease from occurring, rather than attempting to treat or cure it once the illness is contracted. In recent years, there has been a variety of media hype about the benefits and timing of vaccinations for children. I encourage parents to talk with your pediatrician about any questions or concerns and consult reliable resources, such as the AAP or CDC, for information to help make an informed decision.”
The importance of annual immunizations for adults
Just because you’re not a kid anymore doesn’t mean you don’t need immunizations each year. Vaccines for adults are recommended based on age, prior vaccination history, health, lifestyle, occupation and travel patterns (i.e., outside the United States).
The CDC recommends that all persons aged 6 months or older be vaccinated against the flu annually. Unlike childhood vaccines, one isn’t enough, because each year the flu virus contains different strains, and each year’s vaccine is formulated to protect against three or four different flu viruses that are expected to be the most common strains circulating during a particular season.
While everyone should receive a flu vaccine, certain individuals should be particularly vigilant, due to increased risk of severe flu complications. This includes young children; pregnant women; healthcare workers; people who suffer from chronic health conditions such as asthma, diabetes, or heart and lung disease; and adults age 65 and older.
The CDC also recommends that all adults over age 60 receive the shingles vaccine. Shingles – a burning, painful rash and fluid-filled blisters — happens when the chickenpox virus, which lies dormant in the body for years after a person has had the illness, reactivates. The likelihood of developing shingles increases with age, and physical or emotional stress. If you have already had shingles, the vaccine can help prevent a recurrence.
“The flu vaccine and shingles vaccine are particularly important for older adults, because these illnesses can have particularly severe complications in adults over age 60,” said Joyce Noe, RN, Infection Prevention and Control at Logan Memorial Hospital.
Should I Be Vaccinated?
Certain health conditions, lifestyle or risk factors can factor into the benefit and timing of vaccination. If you are pregnant, breastfeeding, moderately or severely ill, suffer from a chronic illness or immune system disorder, have severe allergies (including egg allergy), are undergoing cancer treatment, or have previously had a severe reaction to a vaccine, talk with your doctor and follow his or her recommendation for immunizations.
For more information, visit www.cdc.gov/vaccines, or call your primary care provider. If you do not have a primary care provider, Logan Memorial Hospital can help you identify one. Simply call 270-726-4011.