August is recognized as Immunization Awareness Month and is held to highlight the importance of vaccination for all ages. Immunizations, also known as shots or vaccines, are an important way to prevent serious and life-threatening diseases. And they aren’t just for kids – adults need protection against serious illnesses like the flu and measles. That's why it is important to make sure you're up to date on all of your vaccines.
How do Vaccines Work?
Your immune system recognizes germs that enter your body as foreign enemies and responds by making proteins called antibodies. The antibodies are made to help destroy germs when you are sick. However, there are times when the antibody is not produced fast enough or is unable to act fast enough, which can result in sickness and sometimes death. After you make antibodies, they remain in your bloodstream to prevent future attacks from the same germs. This is known as immunity. Vaccines help us develop immunity without becoming sick first. Vaccines are made from germs that cause disease but are often killed or in weakened form so they don't cause the disease it's preventing. When these weakened or killed forms are introduced into your body, your body responds by making antibodies. This allows antibodies to be ready for when the real germs come and can act quickly at preventing illness.
Populations Who Should be Vaccinated
Babies and Young Children
Once children are 6 months old, the CDC recommends a yearly influenza vaccine. Children who are 6 months to 8 years old who are getting the influenza vaccine for the first time should get 2 doses of the vaccine at least 28 days apart. There is also a schedule of vaccines that children must receive by the time they are 2 years old, with additional vaccines between the ages of 4 to 6 years old. If a child falls behind on their immunization schedule, they are able to receive catch up doses of vaccines so they can be up-to-date.
Children Who Attend School
Getting vaccinated before going to school is important to protect a child’s health and the health of other children at school. Disease can quickly spread among groups of children who are not vaccinated. To prevent such outbreaks, it's important that every child attending school receive the required vaccines. For more information, talk to your doctor and your child’s school.
Preteens and teens need four vaccines to protect against serious diseases: meningococcal conjugate, human papillomavirus (HPV), Tdap, and influenza vaccines. Just like young children who attend schools, preteens and teens are at the same risk for disease when exposed to crowded places. It’s important to get vaccinations to prevent diseases from spreading and to protect yourself.
All adults should receive the recommended vaccines to protect their health. Healthy adults are still susceptible to illness and can pass on diseases to others. The vaccination that an adult may need can vary based on the individual. This is because certain health conditions can require different vaccinations to prevent further complications. Examples of such health conditions include asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), diabetes, and heart disease. Some vaccines also require booster doses, so even if you received the vaccine as a child, you will still need to receive the booster shot every 10 years or so depending on the vaccine. Please contact your provider to find out what vaccines you may need.
Everyone who is 50 and older is recommended to get the shingles vaccine. Additionally, adults who are 65 and older are recommended to receive two types of pneumococcal vaccines. Some adults with certain medical conditions such as diabetes, COPD, or heart disease are also recommended to receive one of the pneumococcal vaccines. Speak with your physician for more information.
Vaccines play an important role in having a healthy pregnancy. Women should be up to date on vaccinations before, during, and after pregnancy. For example, vaccines for the flu and whooping cough protect the mother and her baby and increase their chances of safety by preventing illness and complications. Before the pregnancy, the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine is important to prevent birth defects. During pregnancy, if you have missed certain vaccinations, ask your doctor to find out which vaccinations are important to get. Getting vaccinated during pregnancy can also provide the baby with protection. Be sure to talk with your provider to ensure that you are up do date on all of your vaccines.