Vaccines protect against many potentially harmful diseases
Back-to-school season is once again here. While most supply lists include pencils, notebooks, crayons and other classroom necessities, parents need to be sure their children have the most important supply on hand – protection against vaccine-preventable diseases.
August marks National Immunization Awareness Month and Galveston County Health District (GCHD) takes this time to highlight the importance of vaccination at all ages.
Vaccines are the best way for parents to protect their children – and themselves – from 16 potentially harmful diseases that can often be extremely serious, especially in infants and young children. These diseases include measles, whopping cough, chickenpox and some cancers.
“Whether you have a baby starting a new childcare facility, a toddler headed to preschool or a child going back to school or even college, you need to check their vaccination records,” said Eileen Dawley, RN, GCHD chief nursing officer. “Illnesses are easily spread from one child to another in schools when students may not properly wash their hands or cover their coughs and sneezes.”
While vaccination rates in Texas line up with the national average, there is always room for improvement.
“Specifically, improvement when it comes to the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine,” Dawley said. “Each year about 14 million people, including teens, are infected with the virus. Odds are your child will eventually encounter it. Every year in the United States, HPV causes 30,700 cancers in men and women.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates roughly 80 million people have HPV – that’s one in four. The HPV vaccine can prevent most cancers – about 28,000 – from occurring.
CDC recommends all children who are 11 and 12 years old get two shots of HPV vaccine six months apart. Adolescents who receive their two shots less than five months apart will require a third dose. The vaccine is recommended through age 26. Teen boys and girls who did not start or finish the HPV vaccine series when they were younger should get it now.
Parents should check with their child’s doctor, school or local health department to learn about vaccine requirements.
“It’s important to vaccinate on time. Receiving vaccines on the recommended schedule is the best way to protect against these illnesses,” Dawley said.
Vaccines are not just limited to children. Healthy adults may also become ill and pass diseases on to others and should check their vaccine records. Vaccines are recommended for adults based on age, health conditions, jobs and other factors. Diabetes, even if well managed, may make it harder for some to fight infections. Those with diabetes may be at a greater risk of more serious problems from an illness compared to those without diabetes.
Women who are expecting should check with their prenatal care provider to be sure they are up to date on vaccines.
“When mothers get vaccinated during pregnancy, they pass some protection on to their baby,” Dawley said. “Some women may need to receive certain vaccines after giving birth. And, some vaccines need to be given before a woman becomes pregnant, like the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine.”
Pregnant women should get the pertussis vaccine, commonly called whopping cough, during their pregnancy. They also need to get the influenza vaccine.
“All adults should get an influenza vaccine each year to protect against the seasonal flu,” Dawley said. “Some people are at high risk, like adults 65 years old and older, children younger than 5, pregnant women and those with long-term medical conditions like asthma, heart disease and diabetes.”
The GCHD immunization clinic offers a variety of vaccines for children and adults. The clinic accepts Children’s Medicaid, Blue Cross Blue Shield, cash, check, credit and debit. Discounts are available for eligible patients.
There is no need for an appointment, just walk on in. The clinic is open Monday through Friday 8 a.m.-5 p.m. with hours extended until 7 p.m. on Tuesdays and is located at 9850-B Emmett F. Lowry Expressway, Suite B-104 in Texas City. Learn more at www.gchd.org/imm or by calling 409-949-3459.