August is National Immunization Awareness Month. This month, health centers like Whittier Street Health Center will highlight the importance of immunizations to public health. Vaccines protect against serious, and sometimes deadly, diseases—such as the flu, measles, meningitis, hepatitis, and others.
Here in Massachusetts, residents benefit from a universal childhood vaccine program and some of the highest childhood vaccination rates in the nation. However, adults in this state and across the nation have less access to vaccine, vaccine services, and vaccine information (Massachusetts Adult Immunization Coalition).
There are many reasons for low vaccination rates among adults, including the knowledge, beliefs, and practices of health care providers and consumers; a complex adult vaccine schedule; and factors such as insurance coverage/reimbursement, and vaccine access.
Vaccinations are needed throughout our lifetime! Find your and your loved ones’ stage of life below for immunization tips:
Babies from Birth to Age 2
Children can get a healthy start by having all of their vaccinations. Vaccines protect babies from 14 serious diseases before they turn 2 years old. Infectious diseases like the flu, measles, and whooping cough (pertussis) can be life threatening for newborns and young babies. Here are three reasons to vaccinate your baby:
- Immunizations can save your child’s life. Polio was once the country’s most-feared disease, causing death and paralysis across the country. Today, thanks to vaccination, there are no reports of polio in the US.
- Vaccination is very safe and effective. Vaccines are only given to children after a long and careful review by scientists, doctors, and health care professionals. Serious side effects following vaccination are very rare.
- Immunizations can save your family time and money. A child with a vaccine-preventable disease can be denied attendance at schools or daycare facilities. Some vaccine-preventable diseases can result in prolonged disabilities and can take a financial toll because of lost time at work, medical bills, or long-term disability care.
Today’s childhood vaccines protect against serious and potentially life-threatening diseases, including polio, measles, and whooping cough.
When children are not vaccinated, they can spread diseases to others in their classrooms and community – including babies who are too young to be fully vaccinated, and people with weakened immune systems due to cancer or other health conditions.
School-age children need vaccines. For example, children who are 4 to 6 years old are due for boosters of four vaccines: DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis), chickenpox, MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) and polio.
Older children, like preteens and teens, need Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis), MenACWY (meningococcal conjugate vaccine) and HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccines when they are 11 to 12. In addition, yearly flu vaccines are recommended for all children 6 months and older.
Each year, tens of thousands of adults are hospitalized and even die as a result of diseases that could be prevented by vaccines, like pertussis, hepatitis, shingles and pneumococcal disease. You can help protect your health and the health of your loved ones by getting your recommended vaccines.
Getting vaccinated can be easy and affordable. All Health Insurance Marketplace plans and most other private insurance plans must cover the following vaccines without charging a copayment or coinsurance when provided by an in-network provider:
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis B
- Herpes Zoster
- Human Papillomavirus
- Measles, Mumps, Rubella
- Tetanus, Diphtheria, Pertussis
Medicare Part B will pay for the following vaccines: influenza (flu), pneumococcal, hepatitis B, rabies, and tetanus. Medicare Part D may also have coverage for: Zoster, MMR, and Tdap. Most state Medicaid agencies cover at least some adult immunizations. Check with your state Medicaid agency for more information.
With immunization, you can protect yourself, your loved ones, and your community. Remember to ask your doctor about vaccinations on your next visit!