COMMENTARY: Keeping immunizations up to date is worth a shot

August is National Immunization Awareness Month. Vaccines protect against infectious diseases, and have prevented an estimated 322 million illnesses, 21 million hospitalizations, and 731,700 deaths in the United States since 1994!

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention along with the Immunization Coalition of Delaware, and other groups, are using this month to call attention to the effectiveness, safety and need for vaccines across the lifespan. Immunizations are not just for children! Each week of NIAM 2017 focuses on a different stage of the lifespan.

In order for your child to enter public kindergarten in Delaware, they must be fully vaccinated against

•DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis)

•Polio

•MMR (measles, mumps, rubella)

•Hepatitis B

•Varicella (chicken pox)

Immunization against rotavirus, Hemophilus influenzae type b, pneumococcus and hepatitis A are also recommended. A yearly flu shot is recommended for everyone over the age of 6 months.

All ninth-graders in Delaware must show proof of:

•A booster dose of Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis)

•One dose of meningococcal vaccine.

Colleges and universities have their own requirements for immunization, and if your student is going off to school this fall, you should check with an admissions officer to determine what your child needs.

There are two serogroup B meningococcal vaccines — Bexsero and Trumenba® — that have been licensed for use among those age 10-25 years. Your doctor may give you either one, but they are not interchangeable. If you or your child are between 16 and 23 years old, you should discuss the importance of meningococcal B vaccine with your doctor.

The human papillomavirus vaccine is recommended as a two-shot series for boys and girls at 11-12 years of age, although it is approved for use in ages 9-26 years. It is one of the only vaccines proven to prevent cancer in men and women.

As an adult, getting a yearly flu vaccine and any booster shots your doctor recommends is one of the most important things you can do for your health, and for the health of those around you. Make sure to get the Tdap vaccine to protect yourself and the children around you from getting pertussis (whooping cough). Once in your sixties, you should also talk to your doctor about vaccines against shingles and two pneumococcal vaccines. You may need other vaccines if you have not been immunized or are at risk for certain diseases.

Find out more at https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/events/niam.html, or talk to your doctor about what you should do to keep yourself and your family healthy. Visit the ICD’s webpage at www.immunizedelaware.org to learn more about how you can do your part to make Delaware the healthiest state in the nation.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Kate Smith, M.D., MPH, is with the Immunization Coalition of Delaware and Stephen Eppes, M.D. is with Christiana Care Health System.

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