As a current or future health professional, you are already aware of the importance of immunizations to help keep yourself, your patients, your family and your community safe from preventable illnesses.
However, many people who aren't health professionals still may not realize how important it is to be vaccinated against various diseases. August has been designated as National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM) by the National Public Health Information Coalition (NPHIC) in cooperation with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
The purpose of this annual observance is to bring attention to the importance of immunizations in preventing diseases that can cause serious complications and, sometimes, death. All people — regardless of age — are encouraged to make sure they are up-to-date on their recommended vaccinations.
Why Are Immunizations Important?
The American Academy of Pediatrics recently produced a list of statistics that support why immunizations are so important, especially for protecting young children from serious illness that could have otherwise been prevented.
Consider these facts:
- Out of 1,000 children who catch measles, up to three may die from complications
- During the 20th century, there were over 500,000 cases of measles a year. Because of increased vaccinations, there were only 63 reported cases in 2010.
- Hospitalization is required for 38 percent of children under the age of five who contracted measles because of complications, such as pneumonia, meningitis or deafness.
- Birth defects occurred in 85 percent of babies that were born to mothers who contracted rubella during their first trimester. In some cases, the mother will suffer a miscarriage or the baby will be born deaf, have heart defects, or suffer from an intellectual disability.
- The MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine causes more than 95 percent of the people who receive this immunization to be immune to all three illnesses
The problem is that many people are misinformed when it comes to immunizations because they may have heard that the MMR immunization and other immunizations may cause autism. This has been disproven with numerous scientific studies that have shown that there is no link between the two.
Who Should Be Vaccinated?
Parents that follow the recommended schedule for immunizations will protect their children from 14 serious childhood diseases by the time their child is two years old. Some of the diseases immunizations protect children from include:
- Chicken pox
People of all ages require immunizations throughout various life stages, not just when they're babies or children. The need for keeping up with immunizations doesn’t end once a child reaches their tween years. Preteens and teens need periodic immunizations or booster shots to protect them from serious diseases such as tetanus, HPV, hepatitis or meningitis. In fact, many colleges require that incoming students be vaccinated for hepatitis and meningitis as a condition for being admitted.
Adults, especially pregnant women or those who are around infants and children, may require an update on their immunizations. In particular, they should make sure that they are up-to-date with their whooping cough (pertussis) and flu vaccinations.
The elderly and chronically ill are especially at risk for contracting diseases that could have been easily prevented if their immunizations were up-to-date. It's important for these groups to speak with their doctors to see what immunizations they need, such as an immunization to prevent shingles, in addition to getting a yearly flu and pneumonia shot.
How You Can Help Promote NAIM
You can help spread the word about National Immunization Awareness Month by sharing with your friends and family the importance of being vaccinated against serious diseases that are preventable.