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August is National Immunization Awareness Month

Toni-Ann DiSantis

August is National Immunization Awareness Month

National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM) is an annual observance held in August to highlight the importance of vaccination for people of all ages. NIAM was established to encourage people of all ages to make sure they are up to date on the vaccines recommended for them. Communities have continued to use the month each year to raise awareness about the important role vaccines play in preventing serious, sometimes deadly, diseases.

National Immunization Awareness Month: Immunizations Are Not Just For Kids  The need for immunizations doesn’t end with childhood. Each year, thousands of adults in the United States suffer serious health problems, are hospitalized, or even die from diseases that could be prevented by vaccines, including influenza, whooping cough, certain bacterial infections, hepatitis A and B, shingles, and even some cancers.

Why are so few adults receiving the immunizations they need to maintain good health? There are many factors. The simplest reason is that many people don’t realize that adults need immunizations, too. While many recognize that a flu vaccine is recommended every year, few adults are aware of the need for other vaccines to help protect their health. In a 2007 survey by the National Foundation on Infectious Diseases, 40 percent of adults questioned said that they did not need immunizations because they were vaccinated as children.

In addition to misunderstanding of vaccine recommendations, the Trust for America’s Health, the Infectious Diseases Society of America, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation identified four barriers to adult immunization. They include limitations of access to care, gaps in insurance coverage, inability to pay for vaccines if not covered by insurance, and fewer incentives for pharmaceutical companies to invest in vaccine research and development.

It’s true that adults may be recommended for certain vaccines due to their age, job, hobbies, travel, or health condition. Other vaccines may be recommended if they didn’t get certain vaccines as children, such as the HPV vaccine, Measles-mumps-rubella vaccine, and varicella “chicken pox” vaccines. Some adults, including older adults and those that have chronic health conditions, may be at higher risk for serious complications from some vaccine-preventable diseases.

Adult immunization is necessary because it not only protects the person receiving the vaccine, but also helps prevent the spread of certain diseases to loved ones and those in the community who are most vulnerable to disease (like those with weakened immune systems and infants).

Vaccines are available at private doctor’s offices, as well as other convenient locations such as pharmacies, workplaces, community health clinics, and health departments.