An important observance during August – National Immunization Awareness Month, provides the opportunity to remind the entire community of the importance of immunization. The most important responsibility school children’s parents have is to be sure that their kids’ vaccinations are current. College students, adults and the entire community need to pay attention to the value of immunization. Vaccines have reduced and, in some cases, eliminated many diseases that once routinely killed or harmed tens of thousands of infants, children, and adults.
Each year, approximately 200,000 American citizens are hospitalized because of influenza. An average of 36,000 persons die annually due to influenza and its complications. Most are people 65 years of age and over. Annually, there are approximately 40,000 cases of invasive pneumococcal disease in the U.S. and one-third of these cases occur in people 65 and older. About half of the 5,000 annual deaths from invasive pneumococcal disease occur in the elderly. The entire community can be protected through high immunization rates because this interrupts the transmission of disease-causing bacteria or viruses. Persons who are immunized are also protecting those people who cannot be immunized for medical reasons.
Since 1994, the Vaccines for Children (VFC) program has allowed eligible children to receive vaccinations as part of routine care. The VFC program provides publicly purchased vaccines for use by all participating providers. They are given to eligible children without cost to the provider or the parent. The VFC program provides immunizations for children who are uninsured, Medicaid recipients and others that can be given at their doctors’ offices. VFC also provides immunizations at participating federally qualified health centers and rural health clinics. The program has contributed to high immunization rates and thus reduced delays in immunizations and, subsequently, the risk of serious illness or death from vaccine-preventable diseases.
Free immunizations have already begun, in order for parents to have their school children ready to walk into classrooms the very first day of school. Every year, many parents have failed to do so, only to be angry that their child cannot be registered to attend school until they have had their shots. When free protection is offered, there’s no reason to delay. Children who have received their vaccinations have a greater chance for not missing school due to sickness, which in turn, helps their parents avoid missing work.
Take the time now to get school children up-to-date on their immunizations. Adults, start thinking about getting your flu shot, as the season will soon be here. We are fortunate to live in an age where so many devastating illnesses have been eradicated. The Centers for Disease Control’s National Immunization Program (NIP) strives to prevent disease, disability, and death in children and adults through vaccination. NIP is committed to promoting immunization at every stage of life, providing leadership on vaccines and immunization, strengthening and communicating immunization science, providing immunization education and information, and improving health in the U.S. and globally.