National Immunization Awareness Month

August marks National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM) helping to spread the word about vaccines that can save lives and prevent illnesses. To note, among children born between 1994 and 2013, the Centers for Disease Control reported that an estimated 322 million cases of childhood illnesses will be prevented due to vaccination.

In honor of National Immunization Awareness Month, Leonard M. Malamud, DO, director of the Division of Family Practice at Aria Health, has provided the following tips and facts to help parents make immunization decisions for themselves and their families:

  • Vaccines can prevent the spread of illness and disease

Vaccines can ensure healthy lives, as they can protect you and your children against harmful diseases. In fact, due to vaccines, polio has essentially been eradicated in the United States since 1979, and measles and mumps have been largely eliminated. In addition to avoiding serious diseases and illnesses, getting annual vaccinations such as the flu shot can help you and your loved ones stay healthy throughout the year.

  • Some vaccines have age restrictions

Although you may be encouraged to get vaccinated, certain immunizations can’t be fully administered to children until they reach a certain age. If you are around young children, it is important to know the immunizations you have and haven’t received, as you could pass serious illnesses along to these children. For example, babies don’t receive all of their pertussis (or whooping cough) immunization shots until they are 18 months. Receiving the Tdap shot, a combination vaccine that immunizes against tetanus and diphtheria, will help prevent the spread of this deadly illness to babies. Pregnant women can also get vaccinated to pass the protection along to their babies for their first months of life.

  • Ask questions

Not all immunizations are mandatory. Some vaccinations are elective, such as the HPV shot and the shingles vaccine. However, if you are wary of deciding for or against a specific immunization for you or your children, be sure to ask your doctor or pediatrician their reasons for recommending a particular vaccine.