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August is National Immunization Awareness Month

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Margo Kerrigan, M.P.H., Area Director
Indian Health Service California Area Office

August is recognized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM). The goal of NIAM is to increase awareness about immunizations across the lifespan, from the very young children to the elderly.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that the single best way to prevent the flu is to get vaccinated each fall. Good health habits and antiviral medications are other measures that can help protect against the flu. Vaccine-preventable disease rates are lower than they have ever been; however in order to continue this pattern, healthcare providers must educate their patients and provide immunizations as indicated by the recommendations set forth by the Centers for Disease Controls, Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). Because children are vulnerable to infection, most vaccines are given during the first five to six years of life. Other immunizations are recommended during adolescent and adult years, with certain booster vaccinations recommended throughout life. For example, due to the high number of outbreaks of Pertussis/"Whooping Cough" disease in California, beginning in 2011, a new California law requires that students entering 7th-12th grade this fall be immunized with Tdap, a vaccine that is used to prevent pertussis.

Ensuring the safety and health of our American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) communities is a major responsibility. Immunization protects people. CDC reports that some vaccine-preventable diseases affect AI/AN people at a higher rate compared to other populations. If enough people in our communities are protected, vaccine-preventable diseases will not be passed to our children, our families, and our communities.

Take these recommended steps to reduce vaccine-preventable diseases and their spread:

  • Unless medically contraindicated, get vaccinated each fall to prevent the flu! Health Care Providers and patients need to do their part to protect each other as well as those in their home and work communities.
  • Communities are encouraged to plan local health screenings or fairs, media events and other related immunization outreach efforts during the month of August to promote the benefits of immunization
  • Parents, guardians, and health care providers should ensure that children and adolescents under their care are fully immunized and on schedule, based on recommendations set forth by the Advisory Committee for Immunization Practice, of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • Health care providers should take appropriate steps to ensure that they, themselves are current on all immunizations and unless contraindicated, receive the influenza vaccine prior to the start of "flu" season
  • Health care providers, health care administrators, and community leadership should advocate for immunization coverage, reminding family, friends, co-workers and community members to catch up on their vaccinations as a first line of defense against vaccine preventable diseases.
  • Health care providers should attend annual training updates regarding immunizations and vaccine preventable diseases in order to maintain a safe practice and be prepared with current information for educating their patients
  • Patients, family and community members should receive educated by health care providers about vaccine preventable diseases and ways in which these diseases can be prevented
  • Health care providers and patients should avoid missed opportunities by providing immunizations to patients who are due for them when the patient arrives at the health care facility for other health care services
  • Parents, adult patients and health care providers should be proactive in making sure that their immunization records are included as part of a local, regional, and/or Statewide Immunization Registry. Registries assure better data collection, tracking, reporting, and access to records for patients and providers. Use of Statewide registries is recommended for ensuring appropriate immunization coverage.

For additional information on immunizations and related recommendations, you may visit the following:

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases web site highlights National Immunization Awareness Month and provides resources that promote immunizations: http://www.healthfinder.gov/nho/PDFs/AugustNHOtoolkit.pdf Exit Disclaimer – You Are Leaving www.ihs.gov
  • The Centers for Disease Control' web site that provides immunization resources specific to the American Indian and Alaska Native population: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/spec-grps/ai-an.htm Exit Disclaimer – You Are Leaving www.ihs.gov
  • Letter from the California Department of Public Health to all pediatric health care providers regarding recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) General Recommendations on Immunization, 2011 Immunization Schedules for Persons 0-18, and reminder about Pertussis (Tdap) school requirements. http://eziz.org/PDF/vfcletter_2011_03_Schedule.pdf Exit Disclaimer – You Are Leaving www.ihs.gov
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