Immunization Awareness Month (August)

Vaccinations are not just for children anymore. August is National Immunization Awareness Month. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) states that you are never too old to get immunized. If you are over 20, but not quite 100, and have not received a vaccine in a few years, please visit the CDC website listed below for information on regularly scheduled vaccines for all ages. Always consult with your healthcare provider if you have questions concerning vaccination recommendations.

Different circumstances in the lives of people determine the need for vaccines. Criteria to receive these may include one or more of the following: disease processes of the person or persons in their home, age, how many doses of a certain vaccine a person has received in the past, unknown status of immunity to a specific antigen, risk of exposure related to career choice, travel plans, and past communicable diseases a person has experienced (i.e. chicken pox).

Many vaccines are familiar to most people. To name a few: Influenza, given during the fall and needed every year to prevent respiratory influenza, Pneumococcal to prevent pneumonia and given 1 – 2 doses before age 65 and once after 65, with 5 years between doses, and Tetanus which is needed every 10 years to prevent lockjaw, a disease of the nervous system that causes stiffness and severe muscle spasm.

Some vaccines may be new or not as well understood. The new Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine is recommended for females under 26 years of age. It consists of 3 doses over a 6 month time frame. Certain HPV strains are linked to cervical cancer. The MMR (Mumps, Measles and Rubella) vaccine should be considered if an adult's immunity is in question, especially if they are considering a pregnancy or are a student in college. The Meningococcal vaccine should be considered if the adult is living in a dorm at a university or if one is traveling where this disease is common. Pertussis (Whooping Cough) has been a concern in recent years, therefore a Tdap booster may be recommended for certain adolescents and adults.

One relatively new vaccine that poses confusion is the herpes zoster vaccine. It is recommended for adults over the age of 60 to gain immunity for Shingles. Shingles is caused by the varicella zoster virus (VZV), the same virus that causes chickenpox. After a person recovers from chickenpox, the virus stays in the body in a dormant state. For reasons that are not fully known, the virus can reactivate years later, causing shingles. Almost one out of three people in America will develop shingles during their lifetime. The disease poses a greater risk to people over age 60. The only way to reduce the risk of developing shingles and the long-term pain that can follow, is to get vaccinated.

Please visit the CDC website to learn more about potential vaccinations you may need: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/index.html. As always, see your healthcare provider for the recommendations that apply to you, related to immunizations.

Information provided by Dana H. Breeding, RN Health Educator from Community Wellness, at Augusta Health. To contact her related to the above information, please call 332-4988 or 932-4988.