National Immunization Awareness Month: Get Ready to Go Back to School
Back-to-school season is a great time for people of all ages to remember to get up-to-date on vaccinations.
National Immunization Awareness Month in August helps draw attention to how vaccinations can help prevent kids and adults from getting diseases, especially life-threatening illnesses.
Vaccines have almost completely eliminated some diseases, such as polio, diphtheria, measles and mumps, in the United States. They are also necessary for children to enter school and go to college and for anyone to travel abroad.
In honor of National Immunization Awareness Month in August, here are some helpful facts about vaccines and tips to keep your family healthy.
How vaccines work
Vaccines work by helping the body build up immunity through introducing an imitation infection into the body, according to the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Once the imitation infection has been introduced, your body starts to make specific types of white blood cells that are designed to recognize and destroy that infection.
You may experience some minor symptoms while the imitation infection is in your system. This is normal. Once the imitation infection has been destroyed, your body is left with a supply of white blood cells that will remember the infection and how to fight it.
Why vaccinate in August?
With children going back to school, they are exposed to more germs than during the summer months. There is a greater chance that they will bring germs home to spread to the rest of the family.
“With the flu vaccine, for instance, there is a high incidence of illness during the flu season,” says Julie Neuman, a registered nurse with Visiting Nurse Health System, Georgia’s largest nonprofit home healthcare and hospice provider. “If not vaccinated, more students are out sick or, if they choose not to stay at home, they risk spreading it.”
Check in with your doctor and your child’s pediatrician to stay up-to-date with your family’s vaccinations. That way, you can help prevent a serious illness that can cause your child to miss school and you to miss work, and in the worst case, result in a hospital visit.
Children start receiving vaccines at birth to help boost the immunity that babies receive during the last few weeks of pregnancy. The immunity will decrease over time, so vaccinating from the start will prevent them from getting diseases that their tiny bodies cannot fight off.
Children will continue to receive vaccines throughout the next 18 years. Your child’s doctor will know when each vaccine should be administered, or if there is any reason why your child should not receive a vaccine. The CDC also provides ways for you to keep track of your child’s vaccines.
You can find your child’s official immunization records in a few places, including your pediatrician’s office, any schools your child has attended and your state’s Immunization Information System.
Adults should receive a flu vaccine every flu season, Tdap vaccine at least once and a Td (tetanus, diphtheria) booster every 10 years. Age, health conditions, lifestyle, career choice and international travel will determine what other vaccines adults may need.
For adults with chronic diseases, it is essential that you stay up-to-date on their vaccinations. It is easier for complications to arise if you get certain vaccine-preventable diseases.
For college students…
College students move into a new living environment — dorms and apartments — away from home. Your school may ask for your immunization records and require you to receive a meningitis vaccination.
If you did not receive a Tdap vaccine as a child or adolescent, you should get it at least once to prevent pertussis (whooping cough), and then a Td (tetanus, diphtheria) booster every 10 years. A flu vaccine each year can help you prevent missing school or work.
For pregnant women…
It is crucial for women who are pregnant to get a flu vaccine, according to the CDC. If pregnant woman are not vaccinated and get the flu, they are at risk for serious complications which could lead to hospitalization. Pregnant women should also receive a Tdap vaccine, ideally between 27-36 weeks.
Events, such as flu clinics for all types of populations at workplaces, at schools or your community centers, can help support the importance of vaccinations. In August, use the hashtag #NIAM16 in recognition of National Immunization Awareness Month.