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August is National Immunization Awareness Month

by Amy Groom, Immunization Program Manager, Indian Health Service

Immunization plays an important role in keeping you, your family, and your community healthy. Vaccination helps prevent the spread of disease, especially to those who are most likely to suffer serious complications, such as infants and young children, elders, and those with chronic illness or weakened immune systems. There are certain vaccines that are especially important for American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) people to get, like the flu vaccine, because AI/AN people are at higher risk for complications from the flu.

Infants and young children: Exit Disclaimer: You Are Leaving www.ihs.gov Vaccines give parents the safe, proven power to protect their children from serious diseases. Parents can provide the best protection by following the recommended immunization schedule – giving their child the vaccines they need, when they need them. Babies receive vaccinations that help protect them from 14 diseases by age two.

School-age children: Exit Disclaimer: You Are Leaving www.ihs.gov Getting vaccinated according to the recommended immunization schedule is one of the most important things a parent can do to protect their child’s health. Diseases can quickly spread among groups of children who aren’t vaccinated. Whether it’s a baby starting at a new child care facility, a toddler heading to preschool, a student going back to elementary, middle or high school – or even a college freshman – parents should check their child’s vaccination records. Child care facilities, preschool programs, schools and colleges are prone to outbreaks of infectious diseases. Children in these settings can easily spread illnesses to one another.

Preteens Exit Disclaimer: You Are Leaving www.ihs.gov and Teens: Exit Disclaimer: You Are Leaving www.ihs.gov Parents can do a number of things to ensure a healthy future for their child. One of the most important actions parents can take is to make sure their children are up to date on their vaccines. Preteens and teens need four vaccines to protect against serious diseases:

  • Meningococcal conjugate vaccine to protect against meningitis and blood infections.
  • HPV (human papilloma virus) vaccine to protect against cancers caused by HPV.
  • Tdap vaccine to protect against tetanus, diphtheria, and whooping cough (pertussis).
  • A yearly flu vaccine to protect against seasonal flu.

Adults: Exit Disclaimer: You Are Leaving www.ihs.gov The need for vaccinations does not end in childhood. Vaccines are recommended throughout our lives based on age, lifestyle, occupation, medical conditions and vaccines received in the past.

Pregnant women: Exit Disclaimer: You Are Leaving www.ihs.gov During pregnancy, vaccinated mothers pass on protective anti-bodies – infection fighting ‘guards’ that protect you from getting sick – to their babies before they are born. This provides some immunity against certain vaccine-preventable diseases during their first few months of life, when your baby is still too young to be vaccinated. It also helps provide important protection for you throughout your pregnancy.

Remember, everyone needs vaccines! Please ask your healthcare provider which vaccines you may need.

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Amy Groom, Immunization Program Manager, Indian Health Service

Amy Groom has served as the IHS Immunization Program Manager since 2001. In this capacity she works with IHS and tribal immunization programs across the country to develop immunization policy and implement immunization programs.