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August is National Immunization Awareness Month

Why Risk Contracting a Preventable Disease? Vaccines are Crucial for a Healthy Life

Vaccine safety has become a topic of debate over the past several years, which may be why vaccination rates for some diseases are not meeting national public health goals. The fact is, immunizations have significantly reduced the incidence of many serious infectious diseases and medical professionals want to remind people that immunizations are safe, preserve life, and are critical for both children and adults.

Are Vaccines Safe?

Many parents now reject immunizations because they fear they do more harm than good. The myth that the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine causes autism came from a now-discredited study. To date, numerous scientific studies have shown absolutely no association between the MMR immunization among young children and an increase in autism. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) reports that:

  • Out of 1,000 U.S. children who catch the measles, one to three of them will die.
  • The average number of annual cases of measles in the twentieth century in the United States was over a half million. In 2010, thanks to successful vaccines, there were only 63 cases.
  • Thirty-eight percent of children younger than 5 years of age who had measles required hospitalization.
  • Eighty-five percent of babies born to mothers who had rubella in the first trimester will have birth defects.
  • More than 95% of people who receive the MMR vaccine​ become immune to all three diseases.

The National Public Health Information Coalition (NPHIC) wants all parents to know:

  • Vaccines are thoroughly tested before licensing and carefully monitored after they are licensed to ensure that they are very safe.
  • Vaccines are among the safest and most cost-effective ways to prevent disease. They not only protect vaccinated individuals, but also help protect entire communities by preventing and reducing the spread of infectious diseases.
  • Currently the U.S. has the safest, most effective vaccine supply in its history. The country’s long-standing vaccine safety system ensures that vaccines are as safe as possible.

Infants & Children

Babies receive vaccinations that help protect them from 14 diseases by age 2. It is very important that babies receive all doses of each vaccine, as well as receive each vaccination on time. After age 2, children are still recommended to receive a yearly flu vaccine and will be due for additional vaccine doses between 4 and 6 years of age. Getting all of the recommended vaccines is one of the most important things parents can do to protect their children’s health.​

When children are not vaccinated, the AAP warns they are at increased risk for disease and can spread disease to others in their play groups, child care centers, classrooms, and communities—including babies who are too young to be fully vaccinated, and people with weakened immune systems due to cancer and other health conditions. Child care settings and schools are highly susceptible to outbreaks of infectious diseases because students can easily spread illnesses to one another as a result of poor hand washing, uncovered coughs, and dense populations.

Talk to your doctor or healthcare professional about any vaccine-related questions or concerns, but make sure your children get the vaccinations they need when they need them. To find more information about vaccines, visit the CDC’s vaccine website for parents. To ensure your child is on schedule for all vaccines, use the CDC’s Instant Childhood Immunization Schedule.

Preteens & Teens

Preteens and teens need the tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis (Tdap) vaccine, quadrivalent meni​ngococcal conjugate vaccine, and the human papilloma virus (HPV)​ vacc​ine to protect against serious diseases.

The Tdap vaccine is a booster recommended at age 11 or 12 to help protect against three serious diseases: Tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (also called whooping cough). It is also recommended for any teen (13 to 18 years old) who has not yet received the vaccine. It is especially important for older children and adults who will have close contact with babies younger than 1 year of age.

The quadrivalent meningococcal conjugate vaccine is recommended for all preteens at age 11 or 12 for protection against the bacteria that cause meningococcal disease. The two most severe and common illnesses caused by meningococcal disease are infections of the fluid and lining around the brain and spinal cord (meningitis) and the bloodstream (septicemia or bacteremia). Meningococcal disease can be very serious, even fatal.

The HPV vaccine is needed because it prevents cancer. Approximately 79 million Americans are infected with HPV and although most HPV infections will go away on their own, some infections can lead to cancer. The HPV vaccine is safe, effective, and can protect people from infection with the types of HPV that can cause certain cancers.

A yearly flu va​ccine is also recommended for all children 6 months of age and older. Flu vaccines protect against flu illness and the other health problems that flu can cause, like pneumonia, dehydration (loss of body fluids), bronchitis, and even worsening of existing conditions like asthma or diabetes.

By making sure vaccines are up to date, parents can send their preteens and teens to middle school and high school—and also off to college—with protection from vaccine preventable diseases.

Adults

All adults should get the flu vaccine each year to protect against seasonal flu. Every adult should also get the Tdap vaccine once if they did not receive it as a teen to protect against pertussis (whooping cough) and a tetanus (Td) booster shot every 10 years. Adults may need other vaccines—such as shingles, pneumococcal, hepatitis, HPV—depending on one’s age, occupation, travel, health status, vaccination history, and other risk factors.

The CDC offers an Adult Vaccine Quiz to help you discover what vaccines you may need.

Pregnant Women

Vaccines are an important component of a healthy pregnancy. Women should be up-to-date on their vaccines before becoming pregnant and should receive vaccines against both the flu and whooping cough (pertussis) during pregnancy.

Pregnant women should get a dose of Tdap vaccine during the third trimester of each pregnancy between 27 and 36 weeks. When a pregnant woman receives a whooping cough vaccine, her body creates protective antibodies and passes some of them to her baby before birth. These antibodies provide the baby some short-term protection against whooping cough until he or she is able to start receiving his or her own vaccine at 2 months of age.

Getting a flu shot protects pregnant women from the flu. Even if you are generally healthy, changes in immune, heart, and lung functions during pregnancy make you more likely to get seriously ill from the flu. Studies show that getting a flu shot while you are pregnant can also decrease your baby’s risk of getting the flu for up to six months after birth.

National Immunization Awareness Month is a great time to promote vaccines and remind family, friends, and coworkers to stay up to date on their shots!

For more information on immunizations for the entire family, contact one of Coastal Carolina Health Care’s family practices: CCHC New Bern Family Practice, at (252) 633-1678, or CCHC Twin Rivers Family Practice, at (252) 636-2664.

(Sources: American Academy of Pediatrics, National Public Health Information Coalition, Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, and Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.)