National Immunization Awareness Month
We usually think of August as back to school month. Certainly, as soon as the fireworks have ended, stores quickly switch out displays of red, white and blue for ones filled with crayons, notebooks, backpacks, and the like. But did you know August is also National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM)? This annual observance celebrates the benefits of and highlights the importance of immunizing people of all ages.
As a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner for 26 years, I can tell you that most kids do not celebrate when they learn that it's time for a shot.
As much as I don’t like seeing children upset , I know that vaccination protects us from some really nasty, vaccine-preventable diseases. You see, I’m one of those people who are old enough to remember taking care of kids whose lives were forever changed after contracting a form of bacterial meningitis. Today that infection is rarely seen because we have a vaccine that protects us against it. Some people may even recall chicken pox as a rite of passage, but even this popular infection is seeing reduced rates thanks to immunization.
Immunizations aren't just for kids
And, just like orange juice isn’t only for breakfast anymore, immunizations aren’t just for kids! Pregnant women too need to be vaccinated. Did you know that one of the best ways to start protecting an unborn child against serious illness is by having pregnant women receive both the whooping cough (Tdap) and flu vaccinations?
The immunizations a woman receives during her pregnancy help to provide her developing child with some disease protection that will last throughout the first months of life after birth. This early protection is critical for infants because they are too young to be vaccinated. Passing maternal antibodies on to newborns is the only way to help directly protect them. In cases when a newborn becomes ill and we are able to determine who spread the infection, the mother is often the source due to a lack of immunization.
When it comes to flu, even if a pregnant woman is generally healthy, changes in immune, heart, and lung functions during pregnancy make her more likely to have a severe case of the flu if she catches it. She also has a higher chance of experiencing pregnancy complications, such as premature labor and delivery. If you are pregnant, get the Tdap and flu shot to protect you and your baby!
What about the rest of us? Yes, we too need immunizations.
Vaccines are recommended throughout our lives based on age, lifestyle, occupation, travel destinations, medical conditions, and previous vaccination. Many adults don’t know which vaccines they need and even fewer are properly immunized. Because of this, tens of thousands of adults who are unvaccinated, needlessly suffer, are hospitalized, and can die as a result.
Not only can vaccine-preventable diseases make us very sick, but if we do get sick, we risk spreading certain diseases to others. Passing on a family tradition is one thing; passing on a vaccine-preventable disease is quite another! Babies, older adults and people with weakened immune systems (like those undergoing cancer treatment) are especially vulnerable to infectious diseases. They are also more likely to have severe illness and complications if they do get sick. We can protect our health and the health of our loved ones by rolling up our sleeves and getting our recommended vaccines.
Not sure what vaccines you have had or what you may need?
- Log on to MyChart
- Take a short quiz from CDC
- Print Family's Immunization Records (Washington Immunization Information System)
Reminder: Flu season is just around the corner. Everyone six months of age and older should receive an annual influenza vaccination. The Everett Clinic will be offering flu shots at specially-designated Clinics throughout the month of September.
Get your immunizations and celebrate!
DISCLAIMER: The contents and opinions expressed by Everett Clinic teammates and providers on “A Healthier You” blog and those providing comments are theirs alone and are not a substitute for medical advice. Consult your own provider for personal health recommendations.
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