Meredith Maxwell, M.D., M.H.A.
August is National Immunization Awareness Month. As summer winds down and the school year begins, August is the perfect month to make sure everyone is up-to-date on vaccines. From infants to the elderly, people of all ages need vaccines. The goal of the National Immunization Awareness Month is to increase awareness about immunizations across a lifespan. By staying up-to-date, you can prevent diseases and the flu from affecting you and your family.
Babies and Children
Childhood vaccines protect against serious and potentially life-threatening diseases, including polio, measles, whooping cough, and chickenpox. Immunizations can protect your child from 14 serious diseases before they turn 2 years old. When children are not vaccinated, they are at an increased risk of becoming sick. They can also spread diseases to their family and community, including babies who are too young to be fully vaccinated, and people with weakened immune systems due to cancer and other health conditions. Here are several others reasons to make sure your child is vaccinated:
- Vaccination is very safe and effective.
- Immunization can save your family time and money.
- Immunization protects future generations by reducing the prevalence of serious diseases.
Preteens and Teenagers
As kids get older, preteens and teens are at increased risk of certain infections. Moreover, childhood vaccinations begin to wear off and an additional dose is needed to boost immunity.
There are four vaccines recommended for all preteens at ages 11 to 12:
- Quadrivalent meningococcal conjugate vaccine, which protects against four types of the bacteria that cause meningococcal disease. Meningococcal disease is an uncommon but serious disease that can cause infections, which can cover the brain and spinal cord (meningitis) and blood (bacteremia). Since protection decreases over time, a booster dose is recommended at age 16 so teens continue to have protection during the ages when they are at highest risk of meningococcal disease.
- HPV vaccine, which protects against the common types of HPV that causes cancer. HPV can cause cancers of the cervix, vulva and vagina in women and penis in men. In both women and men, HPV also causes cancers in the back of the throat, anal cancer and genital warts.
- Tdap vaccine, which protects against tetanus, diphtheria, and whooping cough. Tetanus and diphtheria can be very serious. It is most dangerous — and sometimes even deadly — for babies who can catch it from family members, including older siblings.
- Influenza (flu) vaccine. Healthy kids can get the flu, and it can be serious. All kids should get the flu vaccine every year. Parents should also get vaccinated to protect themselves and to help protect their children from the flu.
The latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that vaccination rates for adults are extremely low. Each year, tens of thousands of adults suffer, are hospitalized, and even die from diseases that could be prevented by vaccines.
All adults should receive:
- Annual flu vaccine to protect against the influenza virus
- Td/Tdap to protect against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis
Additional vaccines include:
- Hepatitis A, which protects against a highly contagious, viral liver disease that can cause mild to severe illness.
- Hepatitis B, which protects against a viral infection that attacks the liver and can cause both acute and chronic disease.
- Human Papillomavirus (HPV), which protects against the common types of HPV that causes different types of cancer.
- Meningococcal, which protects against four types of the bacteria that cause meningococcal disease.
- Pneumococcal, which protects against a bacterium that cause many types of illnesses, including ear infections and meningitis.
- Shingles, which protects against a viral infection that cause a painful skin rash.
If you are planning to travel outside of the U.S., check on any additional vaccines you may need.
The good news is that getting vaccinated is very easy. Call your physician’s office to schedule an appointment or visit touro.com/findadoc, if you do not have a physician.
For more information about the importance of immunization, visit www.cdc.gov/vaccines.
Meredith Maxwell, M.D., M.H.A., attended the University of South Alabama College of Medicine, where she completed her family medicine residency, before joining the Touro Infirmary Health System. She is certified by the American Board of Family Medicine Diplomate. Dr. Maxwell chose family medicine because she gets to see patients of all ages and the whole family.