The Month of August Puts Spotlight on Vaccines

National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM) is an annual observance held every August to spotlight the importance of vaccination for people of all ages. Communities across the nation country use the month each year to raise awareness about the important role vaccines play in preventing serious, sometimes deadly, diseases across the lifespan.  The annul NIAM is sponsored by the National Public Health Information Coalition (NPHIC) in collaboration with CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.

Protecting the Nation’s Health

 “Thanks to vaccines, we can protect young infants against whooping cough by making sure everyone is up to date with their vaccines,” says Adm. Brett P. Giroir, M.D. Assistant Secretary for Health, of the U.S Department of Health and Human Services, adding that pregnant women can also pass on protection by being vaccinated during their third trimester every pregnancy. “Family members and caregivers can strengthen that protection by getting up-to-date on the whooping cough vaccine, which helps prevent the spread of this life-threatening disease to infants and their mothers,” he adds.

According to Giroir, whooping cough is just one of several vaccine-preventable diseases.    Outbreaks continue to occur, and many vaccine-preventable diseases remain common such as pneumococcal disease and shingles.  Pneumococcal disease, which affects nearly 4 million Americans each year and can cause pneumonia or infections of the ears, blood and brain. Or that 1 in 3 Americans each year will develop shingles, which can lead to debilitating pain that lasts for weeks, months and, in rare cases, years.

“Vaccines are safe, effective and the best protection against these diseases—from infancy to early adulthood and into old age. By getting vaccinated, we not only protect ourselves, we help stop the spread of disease to our children, families and communities. But, for vaccines to be most effective, vaccination rates must remain high,” says Giroir.

Seniors Should Get Vaccinated 

 NPHIC recommends that older Americans should get vaccines, after an assessment by a health care professional, to protect their health. Even healthy adults can become ill and pass diseases on to others. Certain vaccines are recommended based on a person’s age, occupation or health conditions (such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes or heart disease).

NPHIC says that vaccinations are important because it protects and individual getting the vaccine and helps prevent the spread of disease, especially to infants, older adults and those with chronic conditions and weakened immune systems.

NPHIC urges all adults to get an influenza (flu) vaccine annually to protect against seasonal flu. Older adults (65 and older), children younger than 5, pregnant women and people with certain long-term medical conditions like asthma, heart disease and diabetes, are at high risk for serious flu complications, and should get vaccinations.

It is recommended that every adult should get one dose of Tdap vaccine (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis) if they did not get Tdap as a teen, and then receive a Td (tetanus and diphtheria) booster vaccine every 10 years. Women should get a Tdap vaccine during each pregnancy, preferably during their third trimesters (between 27 through 36 weeks of their pregnancy), adds NPHIC.

According to NPHIC, age 50 and over adults should receive the shingles vaccine. For adults 65 and older, these individuals should receive both pneumococcal vaccines. Some adults younger than 65 years with certain conditions are also recommended to receive one or more pneumococcal vaccinations.

Finally, adults may need other vaccines to prevent hepatitis A, hepatitis B and HPV, depending on their age, occupation, travel, medical conditions and vaccinations they have already received or other considerations.

RI Recognized Nationally for Top Immunization Rates        

In June, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) celebrated Rhode Island for having immunization rates that are among the highest in the nation for several vaccines in different age groups at their most recent National Immunization Conference.

“Our tremendous immunization success is directly attributable to the dedication of Rhode Island’s healthcare provider community, including doctors, school nurses, pharmacists, and community partners, as well as to KIDSNET, a statewide health information system that helps children be as well vaccinated as possible,” said Nicole Alexander-Scott, MD, MPH, Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH), noting that “prevention is a fundamental principle of public health.”

By vaccinating Rhode Island children so well, we are preventing the serious health consequences that are associated with many illnesses and are helping give everyone in our state the opportunity to be as healthy as possible,” says the Rhode Island Health Director.

The CDC’s annual National Immunization Conference brought together more than 1,500 local, state, and federal officials to explore science, policy, education, and planning issues related to immunization and vaccine-preventable diseases.  At this event, Rhode Island received four individual awards.

Kudos For….

The highest flu vaccination coverage rate in the nation among children six months to 17 years of age during the 2016-2017 flu season (74%), – The second highest flu vaccination coverage rate in the nation for adults during the 2016-2017 flu season (51%) – Outstanding immunization rates for the vaccines routinely administered to adolescents.  For example, among adolescents, Rhode Island had the highest HPV (Human papillomavirus) vaccination rate for males and females, the highest meningococcal vaccination rate, and the second highest Tdap vaccination rate.  Tdap protects people against tetanus, diphtheria, and peratussis –  Outstanding immunization rates for each of nine vaccines routinely administered to children 19 to 35 months of age, such as measles, mumps, and rr vaccine, rotavirus vaccine, and Hepatitis A vaccine.

In addition to preventing the health effects of many vaccine-preventable diseases, vaccines substantially reduce disease-associated healthcare expenses.  According to a CDC study published in 2014, childhood vaccines prevented 21 million hospitalizations nationally and resulted in savings of $ 295 billion in direct medical costs nationally between 1994 and 2013.

An additional factor in Rhode Island’s immunization success is its Universal Vaccine Policy. The Universal Vaccine Policy allows healthcare providers to order all vaccines from the state for children from birth through 18 years of age, and most recommended vaccines for adults, at no cost.

For more details about immunizations, go to www.health.ri.gov/immunization.

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