“Immunizations are an important way to keep your family healthy,” says Dr. Tiffany Kimbrough, MD, pediatrician with Children’s Hospital of Richmond at Virginia Commonwealth University. “Since the introduction of vaccines, there has been a tremendous reduction in vaccine-preventable disease, disability and even death. From diseases like smallpox, to polio, and even chickenpox, we have been able to keep our kids healthier these days than in centuries or even decades past.”
National Immunization Awareness Month was established to encourage people of all ages to make sure they are up to date on the vaccines recommended for them.
There are many important reasons to get vaccinated. Many adults in the U.S. are not aware of the vaccines recommended for them – and that means they are not taking advantage of the best protection available against a number of serious diseases.
All adults should get vaccines to protect their health. Even healthy adults can become seriously ill and pass diseases on to others. Certain vaccines are recommended based on a person’s age, occupation, or health conditions (such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes or heart disease). Vaccination is important because it protects the person receiving the vaccine and helps prevent the spread of disease, especially to those who are most vulnerable to serious complications (such as infants and young children, the elderly, and those with chronic conditions and weakened immune systems).
Some diseases such as hepatitis B, chickenpox, pertussis (whooping cough), influenza, pneumococcus and tetanus are very common with germs present in our environment all around us. “To not get a vaccine for one of these diseases puts a child at very real risk of catching that disease. “says Dr. Tiffany Kimbrough.
All adults, including pregnant women, should get the influenza (flu) vaccine each year to protect against seasonal flu. Every adult should have one dose of Tdap vaccine (tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis or whooping cough) if they did not get Tdap as a teen, and then get the Td (tetanus and diphtheria) booster vaccine every 10 years. Pregnant women should receive a Tdap vaccine each time they are pregnant, preferably at 27 through 36 weeks.
Adults 60 years and older are recommended to receive the shingles vaccine. And adults 65 and older are recommended to receive one or more pneumococcal vaccines. Some adults younger than 65 years with certain high-risk conditions are also recommended to receive one or more pneumococcal vaccinations.
Adults may need other vaccines (such as hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and HPV) depending on their age, occupation, travel, medical conditions, vaccinations they have already received, or other considerations.
Every year, tens of thousands of adults in the U.S. needlessly suffer, are hospitalized, and even die from diseases that could be prevented by vaccines. According to Centers for Disease Control (CDC) data:
- Each year, an average of 226,000 people are hospitalized due to influenza and between 3,000 and 49,000 people die of influenza and its complications, the majority of which are adults.
- About 900,000 people get pneumococcal pneumonia every year, leading to as many as 400,000 hospitalizations and 19,000 deaths;
- 850,000 to 2.2 million people suffer from chronic hepatitis B, with complications such as liver cancer.
- In the U.S., HPV causes about 17,000 cancers in women and about 9,000 cancers in men each year. About 4,000 women die each year from cervical cancer.
With back to school around the corner, it is important to make sure that your child is up to date with all recommended vaccines for their age. When in doubt, your healthcare provider’s office can let you know if your child is up to date. For most kids, updating vaccines is most important with kindergarten and middle school enrollment.
Kindergarteners will be getting their last Measles, Mumps, Rubella and Varicella (“Chicken Pox”) vaccines. They will also receive the DTaP (Diptheria, Tetanus and Pertussis) vaccine with their last Polio vaccine. All of these are vaccines they have received in the past, but kids are getting a “boost” to help their immune system form a more lasting memory.
Middle schoolers will need to get their Tdap booster (Tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis vaccine) in addition to their first meningococcal vaccine. They will also be eligible to start the HPV (human papilloma virus) series. You should discuss all vaccines with your healthcare provider.
Vaccines do not treat the disease, but help protect before you get sick.