August is National Immunization Awareness month. This annual observance highlights the importance of getting all recommended and required vaccines for children and adults. By being informed about vaccines you have the power to protect yourself and your family against serious diseases like measles, hepatitis A and B, cancers caused by HPV, shingles, pneumonia and seasonal flu. Many vaccine preventable diseases are only a plane ride away – disease is brought into the U.S. by unvaccinated travelers who become infected while visiting other countries.

Vaccines are safe, effective and protect against many diseases. They are tested to ensure that they are safe for children and adults to receive at the recommended ages. Vaccines reduce a person’s risk of infection by working with their body’s natural defenses to help them safely develop immunity to diseases. Vaccines have made many serious diseases no longer common in the U.S., but they still exist and spread when children and adults are unvaccinated. Unvaccinated children and adults can lead to outbreaks of disease in communities. The measles outbreak in the U.S. this year is an example of what can occur when people in communities are unvaccinated.

The immunization schedule is designed to provide protection early, before children are exposed to potentially serious diseases. By getting your child the recommended vaccines, you protect them from 16 serious diseases. Infants are at greatest risk of contracting pertussis and having severe, potentially life threatening complications from pertussis and other diseases. Summer is also the time to make sure children are up to date on their vaccines before school starts in the fall. Preteens and teens need four vaccines to protect against serious diseases; meningococcal vaccine, HPV vaccine, Tdap vaccine and a yearly flu vaccine. Parents of students starting college in the fall should also receive their meningococcal vaccine if their child will be living in dorms.

Vaccines are important before, during and after pregnancy. All pregnant women should have Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis) vaccine with each pregnancy. When a pregnant woman receives Tdap this helps to protect infant until they can get their own vaccines. Adults with chronic health conditions, such as diabetes or COPD, among others, are at risk for complications from certain vaccine preventable disease and should receive vaccines to protect themselves.

Protect your health and the health of your family. Immunization protects all of us in our communities; so don’t wait – vaccinate. Call your doctor to make an appointment to have you and your family vaccinated. For more information on vaccines visit www.cdc.gov/vaccines. For further information, contact the Niagara County Department of Health Immunization Program at 278-1903.

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