August is national immunization month

By Mary Thompson

PHN, Immunization Coordinator


The purpose of this observance is to highlight the importance of immunizations, one of the top 10 public health accomplishments of the 20th Century, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

While immunizations have significantly reduced the incidence of many serious infectious diseases, vaccination rates for some diseases are not meeting national public health goals.  Immunizations are not just for children.  They are needed throughout our lifetime.

Pregnancy is a great time to plan for your baby’s immunizations – and to make sure you have the vaccines you need to protect yourself and pass protection from some diseases to your baby during the first few months of life.  In addition to the vaccines recommended for adults, women need to have a  flu shot every year, and the Tdap vaccine to protect against whopping cough with every pregnancy.

At the very beginning of life, vaccines give parents the safe, proven power to protect their children against 14 serious diseases before they turn 2 years of age.  Every dose of vaccine is important to protect against infectious diseases like the flu, measles and whopping cough that can be life-threatening for newborns and young babies.  You can provide the best protection by following the recommended immunization schedule – giving your baby every vaccine she or he needs, when they need it – and by making sure those who will be around your baby are vaccinated too.

Whooping cough is a highly contagious respiratory disease that is often thought of as a disease of the past. While we no longer see the number of cases we did before the vaccine was available, it is a growing health concern. The U.S. experienced a nearly 60-year record high number of cases in 2012, with preliminary data showing more than 41,000 cases and 18 deaths.   There were 21 cases in Houston County in 2012.

Vaccines don’t just protect your child.  Immunization is a shared responsibility.  Families, health care professionals and public health officials must work together to help protect the entire community – especially babies who are too young to be vaccinated themselves.

Most young parents in the U.S. have never seen the devastating effects that diseases like polio, measles or whooping cough can have on a family or community.  It’s easy to think of these as diseases of the past.  But the truth is they still exist.

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 infections.

Preparing for school means gathering supplies and back packs.  It’s also the perfect time to make sure children are up to date on their vaccines. When children are not vaccinated, they are at increased risk for disease and can spread disease to others in their classroom and community – especially babies who are too young to be fully vaccinated, and people with weakened immune systems due to cancer and other health conditions. Schools are highly susceptible to outbreaks of infectious diseases because students can easily transmit illness to one another as a result of poor hand washing, uncovered coughs and dense populations.

Many adults don’t realize they still need protection too against vaccine-preventable diseases. Vaccines are not just for kids. Even healthy adults can become seriously ill, and can pass illness on to others.

Vaccines are recommended throughout our lives based on age, lifestyle, occupation, locations of travel, medical conditions and previous vaccination history. Immunization is especially important for adults 60 years of age and older and for those who have chronic conditions such as asthma, COPD, diabetes or heart disease.  Far too few adults are receiving the recommended vaccines, leaving themselves and their loved ones unnecessarily vulnerable to serious diseases.

So, this August, take the time to assess your and your family’s immunization needs.  Check with your provider or you may call local public health (725-5810) to check on your records.  Houston County Public Health will be providing a service during the Houston County Fair this year on Friday, August 16th, from 1 to 3 p.m. to assess your immunization history and provide information on any immunizations you may need.

Most immunizations are covered through private or public insurance plans. In the event you do not have coverage, your child may qualify for the Minnesota Vaccines for Children program or you may qualify for the Minnesota Uninsured or Under Insured Adult Vaccine Program.