August is National Immunization Awareness Month, and many health agencies are stepping up their awareness campaigns to get children up-to-date with their vaccines before they head back to school.
As part of the month, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is highlighting a new series of opinion articles, Medicine Before Vaccines, written by senior pediatricians as a way to remind physicians what practicing medicine was like before immunizations were available. Infectious Disease Advisor will be highlighting these opinion articles throughout the month as well.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is also creating awareness, using their website as a way to provide information for physicians and parents about all recommended vaccines, including information pamphlets that can be downloaded and videos.
At the local level, several state and county health agencies are hosting local events, many of which are designed to facilitate children getting their immunizations before the school year.
While vaccines have significantly reduced the rate of many serious infectious diseases, immunization rates are not meeting national public health goals, making campaigns like these very important, according to Michael T. Brady, MD, of Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. Brady is not directly involved with the AAP’s campaign but commented on it it’s importance.
“It’s unfortunate that people feel a need to publicize the value of our immunization program because it’s done such a great job, but it’s in part the reason they they to do this is because the program has done such a great job,” Brady said. “Many vaccine-preventable diseases that are severe are no longer present or at such low levels that the average person, is really pretty much unaware of the value of these vaccines, so making them aware of the value is very important.”
And August, the month that many children start to head back to school, is precisely the month to do just that.
“August should serve as an easy reminder for parents to make sure their school-aged children’s vaccines are current before they return to school in the fall,” Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Karen Murphy said in a prepared statement about their state’s Don’t Wait, Vaccinate campaign this month. “Vaccines help protect children against 14 childhood diseases that can be very serious or even deadly … Keeping their vaccinations current will help them have a happy, healthy school year.”
And it is not just children that have to be immunized. Federal health officials are reminding physicians about the importance of adult and adolescent immunizations as well.
Adults are urged to get influenza vaccines each year, and should get the Td or Tdap vaccine once if they did not receive it as an adolescent to protect them against pertussis, and then a Td (tetanus, diphtheria) booster shot every 10 years. Pneumonia vaccines are also urged in older adults.
Adolescent vaccines can include pertussis and human papillomavirus.