National Immunization Awareness Month is an annual observance to raise awareness about the important role vaccines play in preventing serious, sometimes deadly, diseases. The Department of Health is encouraging all New Jersey residents to make sure their immunizations are up-to-date during August.
“In preparation for back-to-school, parents should speak with their health care providers to make sure their children are vaccinated,” Health Commissioner Cathleen Bennett said. “When children are not vaccinated, they are at increased risk for illness and can spread disease to others in their play groups, child care centers, classrooms and communities.”
Childhood vaccines protect against 14 serious diseases by the age of two. Vaccines protect against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (whooping cough), polio, measles, mumps and rubella (MMR), Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), hepatitis B, varicella (chickenpox), and pneumococcal disease. New Jersey has reached the Healthy People 2020 target for polio, MMR, hepatitis B and varicella immunizations. It is also recommended that children get vaccinated against rotavirus and hepatitis A, and that everyone six months of age and older annually receive the flu vaccine.
As children grow older, they are at increased risk for meningococcal disease and infections that can lead to human papillomavirus (HPV)-related cancers. Additionally, some of the childhood vaccines wear off over time, so preteens and teens need booster shots to help stay protected from serious diseases like tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends children who are 11 to 12 years of age receive the tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis (Tdap), meningococcal conjugate (MenACWY), and human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines to protect them during adolescence.
Immunizations are not just for kids. Every adult should get the Tdap vaccine once. Women should receive the vaccine during each pregnancy to protect their babies against whooping cough. Adults should receive a Td booster shot every 10 years. Tdap may be given as one of these boosters if the individual has not already gotten a dose.
Adults 60 years of age and older are recommended to receive the shingles vaccine. There are two different vaccines that are recommended to help protect adults 65 years of age and older against pneumococcal disease. Some adults younger than 65 years with certain high risk conditions are also recommended to receive pneumococcal vaccinations. Adults may need other vaccines – such as hepatitis A, hepatitis B and HPV – depending on their age, occupation, travel, medical conditions and vaccinations they have already received or other considerations.
Health care professionals should take this opportunity to ensure that they are up-to-date with immunizations and remind employees and colleagues of the importance of immunization. Immunization protects health care providers and their patients. An immunized health care provider is the best role model for immunization.
“Health care professionals play a critical role in ensuring that patients are fully immunized,” said Deputy Commissioner Dr. Arturo Brito. “In order to raise vaccination coverage, it is important for all health care professionals – whether they provide immunization services or not – to routinely assess the vaccine needs of their patients and to make a strong recommendation for needed vaccinations.”
In recognition of National Immunization Awareness Month, the Department of Health encourages health professionals to organize and participate in activities that promote the importance of immunizations. The National Public Health Information Coalition, in collaboration with CDC, has developed a toolkit that is available online at www.nphic.org/niam.
For information about New Jersey's immunization requirements for child care, preschool, school, and college, please visit http://nj.gov/health/cd/imm.shtml.
Information about vaccines, recommended immunization schedules for all age groups and the Vaccines for Children Program (a federally-funded program that provides vaccines at no cost to children of low-income families) can be found at the CDC website at www.cdc.gov/vaccines.
Follow the New Jersey Department of Health on Twitter at twitter.com/NJDeptofHealth and on Facebook at facebook.com/NJDeptofHealth.
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