National Immunization Awareness Month is observed during August to reflect on and educate people about the importance of vaccinations for people of all ages. This allows a dedicated opportunity to work with health care providers, parents, and patients on the importance of immunizations.
Vaccines reduce your risk of infection by working with your body’s natural defenses to help safely develop immunity to diseases. Vaccines are thoroughly tested before licensing and carefully monitored even after they are licensed to ensure they are safe. NIAM is an opportunity to remind parents of the vaccines required for school entry.
Many children will be returning to school in West Virginia over the coming weeks. This is an opportunity to update immunizations for our youngest citizens. The Kanawha-Charleston Health Department will be holding Back-to-School Immunization Clinics beginning Monday Aug. 5 and running through Friday, Aug. 9.
On those days, parents can bring in their school-age children with no appointment needed from 8:30 a.m. 3:30 p.m. A parent or guardian should come with their children to the clinic. A parent or guardian may also send a signed letter with the accompanying adult to give permission for the child to receive their immunizations. In addition, please bring any proof of previous immunizations, or records for the vaccines that the child has previously received.
Parents or guardians are asked to bring their proof of insurance for the immunization clinic. If a child is not insured or is underinsured, we have reduced fee and free vaccines available through the Vaccines for Children program.
For new school entrants, the required vaccines include the full series of hepatitis B, DTaP, MMR, varicella (chicken pox) and polio. For seventh- and 12th-grade entry, proof of Tdap and meningococcal (MCV4) vaccine must be given. An additional vaccine to protect against meningitis type B is also available, although it’s not required for school entry for this age group.
During NIAM, we recognize that not all vaccinations are specifically for children. There are several immunizations for vaccine preventable diseases for adults throughout their lifespan.
The influenza vaccination can be given beginning at 6 months and should be given annually throughout a person’s lifespan. Additionally, tetanus (Tdap or Td) should be given every 10 years or in 5 years if an injury or risk factors would change.
Adults may also be protected against shingles, a serious and painful rash, by receiving a two dose Zoster vaccine at or after the age of 50. Adults age 65 or over should also receive two vaccines to prevent pneumonia. The first, PCV 13, protects against 13 types of pneumonia. Second, PPSV 23, protects against 23 types of pneumonia. These pneumonia vaccines should be given separately, so it is important to talk to your health care provider regarding what vaccines you have had and what you should receive in the future.
For additional information on National Immunization Awareness Month, you may visit the Centers for Disease Control website: cdc.gov/vaccines.