August is National Immunization Awareness Month
Margo Kerrigan, M.P.H., Area Director
Indian Health Service California Area Office
August is recognized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 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. This is an appropriate time to remind the members of your communities, including family, friends, and co-workers to catch up on their vaccinations. Parents who enroll their children in school, students who are entering college and health care workers should be encouraged to begin preparation for the upcoming flu season. 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.
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. Studies show that Immunizations are the first line of defense against vaccine preventable disease and are important for children, adolescents, and adults.
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 Control s, 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.
The following are recommended practices for reducing vaccine-preventable diseases:
- Health care providers should be current on all immunizations and unless contraindicated, receive the influenza vaccine prior to the start of "flu" season
- Health care providers should attend annual training updates regarding immunizations and vaccine preventable diseases in order to maintain a safe practice
- Patients should be educated by health care providers about vaccine preventable diseases and ways in which these diseases can be prevented
- Health care providers 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
- Health care providers should send out reminder letters to patients who are due for immunizations and continue to follow up as appropriate
- The use of Immunization Registries for data collection, tracking and reporting is highly recommended as a measure of assuring immunization coverage
For more information on Immunizations, you may visit the Centers for Disease Control' web site which highlights National Immunization Awareness Month www.cdc.gov/vaccines/events/niam. At this site you will find resources that promote immunizations and NAIM.