Southeastern Synod ELCA

Immunizations! Protecting Your Family, Yourself and the Community!

Cornelia Pearson - July 27, 2018
The new school season is here and parents and children are rushing around to ensure that new school supplies, appropriate clothing, lunch bags, backpacks and other required school items are purchased and ready for the first day of school. With all the rushing, many parents are confronted with the fact that the children must have the dreaded “shots” before they are allowed to attend public school, daycare, and other care organizations.
 
While side effects of immunizations remain a hot topic of conversation in some circles, there is little doubt that one of the most significant achievements in public health during the 20th century was the use of immunizations to prevent the spread of communicable diseases. Vaccines have eradicated smallpox, eliminated poliovirus in the United States and significantly reduced the number of cases of measles, diphtheria, rubella, pertussis and other diseases. Getting immunized is a lifelong,
life-protecting community effort regardless of age, sex, race, ethnic background or country of origin. Recommended vaccinations begin soon after birth and continue throughout a lifetime offering safe and effective protection from many infectious diseases. Being aware of the vaccines that are recommended for infants, children, adolescents and adults of all ages and making sure that we receive these immunizations is critical to protecting children, other family members and the community from disease.
 
Once again the month of August has been designated as National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM) by the US Department of Health and Human Services. The National Public Health Information Coalition has developed several NIAM Toolkits to promote the importance of immunization. This information is designed for health advocates to use to get the message out about the importance of vaccination at all stages of life. While there is far too much to cover on this topic in one article, these Toolkits provide an invaluable amount of information about immunization for each life stage. 
 
Babies and Young Children (birth through 6 years):
Vaccines give parents the power to protect their children from serious diseases. Vaccines protect babies from 14 diseases by the time they reach 2 years of age. Unvaccinated children are not only at increased risk for disease but they can also easily spread disease to others in child care centers, playgroups and communities. At great risk are infants who are too young to be fully vaccinated and individuals who might not be able to receive certain vaccines due to compromised immunity. One communicable disease that is often of public concern due to outbreaks during the school year is pertussis, commonly known as whooping cough. There is a high vaccine coverage for this vaccine for children nationwide; however, protection from the vaccine fades over time. There is a chance that a fully vaccinated person can catch this very contagious disease if pertussis is circulating. Pertussis can cause serious illness in infants, children and adults, thus the need for parents, siblings, grandparents and others around a newborn to be vaccinated.  
 
Pre-teens and teens (7 through 18 years):
Additional vaccines are awaiting preteens and teens as they age. These include a booster vaccination for 11 - 12-year-olds for tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (Tdap), a 2-series vaccine for Human Papillomavirus (HPV) and a single shot for meningococcal meningitis (MenACWY). A booster for meningococcal is recommended at age 16. While some groups have voiced objection to giving HPV vaccine to preteens, this vaccine can protect them from six different types of cancer later in life. HPV causes more than 32,000 cases of cancer each year in the U.S. Meningococcal disease is a serious, life-threatening disease and has been known to kill otherwise healthy young people within one day after the first symptoms appear.
 
Adults: (over 18 years):
The lack of routine immunization for American adults is responsible for an estimated 40,000 to 50,000 preventable deaths and more than $10 billion in preventable health care costs each year. The list of vaccinations for adults includes one dose of Tdap vaccine (tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis) if they did not get Tdap as a teen. They should then receive a Td (tetanus and diphtheria) booster vaccine every 10 years. Women who may become pregnant should receive the recommended immunization before pregnancy. Adults 50 years and older are recommended to receive the shingles vaccine. Adults 65 and older are recommended to receive two varieties of pneumococcal vaccines.  Adults may also need other vaccines such as hepatitis A, Hepatitis B and HPV depending on their age occupation, travel, medical conditions, vaccinations they have already received or other considerations. 
 
Flu Shots (all ages):
The CDC recommends annual influenza vaccinations for everyone age 6 months or older with rare exceptions. Vaccination is especially important for people at high risk of influenza complications including pregnant women.
 
In Conclusion:
August is a great time to ensure that all family members have received the proper immunizations. Recommendations and guidelines for all individuals including adults can be found on the Center for Disease Control and Prevention website listed with references. Do your part to celebrate National Immunization Awareness Month by ensuring that you, your family and friends are up to date on all the recommended immunizations. Stay Well!
 
References:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/recs/schedules/
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cdc.gov, CDC A - Z index, Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, www.cdc.gov/pertussis/downloads/pertussis-surv-report-2015-provisional.pdf
Department of Health and Human Services, healthfinder.gov, 2018.
Hoffman, Sue, MSN, RN, NCSN, Increasing Teen Immunizations; You’ve Got the Power, National Association of School Nurses (NASN) Learning Center, October 5, 2017.
National Public Health Information Coalition, Toolkits, Your Online Communication Guides, nphic.org, 2018.
ProCon.org: Understand the Issues, Understand Each Other, vaccines.procon.org, 2018.
Voices of Meningitis: A meningococcal Disease Prevention Campaign from the National Association of School Nurses, voicesofmeningitis.org-Facts About Meningitis.
 
 
Cornelia Pearson, RN, MN, Chair
Health Ministries Task Force