National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM) is an annual observance held in August to highlight the importance of routine vaccination for people of all ages including infants, children, adults and older adults. Now is a great time to be on track with your immunizations and check with your doctor about which ones you might be missing. For you and every member of your family, it is important to stay up to date with vaccinations.
Many people may have missed routine vaccines during the pandemic and now need to get caught up with the recommended immunization schedule. COVID-19 vaccines are now available to everyone, 6 months of age and older. Some adults are unaware that there are also recommended vaccines for their age groups including vaccines to prevent influenza, shingles, and pneumococcal disease. It is important to use this month of awareness to promote vaccination to ensure people and families are able to live their healthiest lives.
Immunization and Vaccines:
National Immunization Awareness Month provides the perfect opportunity to think about how far the development and advancement of immunization science has come, and its impact on public health. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) plays a key role in immunization by evaluating vaccines for safety and effectiveness before they are made available to the public.
Vaccines work by stimulating the body’s immune system to safely provide protection against viruses or bacteria that cause infection. They contain weakened or inactive parts of a particular organism (antigen) that triggers an immune response within the body. An antigen is any substance that causes the immune system to begin producing antibodies. In a vaccine, the antigen could be either:
- Weakened or killed bacteria or viruses
- Parts of their exterior surface or genetic material, or
- Bacterial toxin treated to make it non-toxic.
After vaccination, the immune system is prepared to respond quickly when the body encounters the disease-causing organism. Some vaccines require multiple doses, given weeks or months apart. This is sometimes needed to allow for the production of long-lived antibodies and development of memory cells. In this way, the body is trained to fight the specific disease-causing organism, building up memory of the pathogen so as to rapidly fight it if and when exposed in the future.
Why are vaccines important? Vaccines help provide protection from an infectious disease and can lessen the severity of illness. If you are immunized and are exposed to a disease you may have a lesser reaction, or no reaction at all. Simply put, because of advances in medical science, vaccines can help protect us against more diseases than ever before. Some diseases from the recent past,that once injured or killed many people have been eliminated, or become less dangerous, due to vaccines.
Always consult your healthcare provider about your specific needs. If you don’t already have one, ask your health care provider for an immunization record form. Bring the form with you to all of your health care visits and ask your provider to sign and date the form for each vaccine you receive. The major vaccines for adults to consider include:
- COVID-19:The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccine might prevent you from getting COVID-19 or from becoming seriously ill or dying due to COVID-19.
- Flu (influenza): To prevent the flu or lessen the illness after exposure, the CDC recommends annual flu vaccination for everyone ages 6 months or older. Adults age 50 and older should not get the nasal spray flu vaccine. The flu can cause serious complications in older adults and the vaccination has minimal side effects.
- Hepatitis B: The CDC recommends all adults ages 19 to 59 receive the hepatitis B vaccine. The vaccine also is recommended for adults 60 and older who have risk factors for hepatitis B. It is not specifically recommended for those age 60 and older without known risk factors. But if you are in that group, you may receive the hepatitis B vaccine if you want it. Hepatitis B is a disease that affects the liver.
- Human papillomavirus (HPV): The CDC recommends the HPV vaccine for girls and boys ages 11 or 12. Teens and young adults who begin the vaccine series later, at ages 15 to 26, should receive three doses of the vaccine. The Food and Drug Administration has approved the HPV vaccine Gardasil 9 for males and females ages 9 to 45. HPV is a common virus that can lead to cancer.
- Pneumococcal vaccine: The CDC recommends the pneumococcal vaccines for adults age 65 and older. Younger adults at increased risk of pneumococcal disease also might need a dose of the vaccine. Pneumococcal disease causes infections, such as pneumonia, meningitis and bloodstream infections.
- Shingles: To prevent shingles, the CDC recommends the vaccine Shingrix for healthy adults age 50 and older. It’s given in two doses. While not life-threatening, shingles can be very painful.
- Tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis (Tdap): One dose of Tdap is routinely given at age 11 or 12. If you’ve never had a Tdap vaccine, the CDC recommends getting it as soon as possible. One dose of Tdap vaccine is also recommended during each pregnancy, ideally between weeks 27 and 36. Tdap can protect you from lockjaw (tetanus), whooping cough (pertussis) and diphtheria, which can lead to breathing problems. A booster is recommended every 10 years.
Everyone should get all recommended vaccines at the recommended times. It is especially important to receive catch-up doses of any missed vaccines or vaccine doses as soon as possible. Adults should receive all recommended vaccines for their age or other risk factors such as health condition or occupation. Note that protection from some childhood vaccines can wear off over time. Adults may also be at risk for vaccine-preventable disease due to age, job, lifestyle, travel, or health conditions. For more information on what specific ages need specific vaccines, visit this list by the CDC Recommended Vaccines by Age.
Summing it Up:
Vaccines help your body create protective antibodies—proteins that help it fight off infections.crucial aspect of preventative healthcare that can help protect individuals from a variety of infectious diseases. Vaccines are designed to stimulate the immune system to produce an immune response to specific pathogens, without causing the disease itself. They are used to prevent the spread of infectious diseases and protect individuals from serious illnesses.
By getting vaccinated, you can protect yourself and also avoid spreading preventable diseases to other people in your community. Vaccines have prevented countless cases of disease and disability and have saved millions of lives. We are so fortunate that today, because of safe and effective vaccines, few people experience the devastating effects of measles, pertussis, polio and other serious illnesses. Some diseases that once injured or killed thousands of children have been eliminated completely, and others are close to extinction – primarily due to safe and effective vaccines.
Immunization is the most frequent clinical service provided by local health departments. They often serve as critical safety nets for this essential public health service within their communities. If you’re in need of a vaccination, and live in the Central/South Brooklyn area, visit your nearest Swift urgent care clinic. We offer the Flu, Covid-19 and boosters, and others.