The back-to-school hustle has begun for both young and old. Children are busy soaking up the last of the summer’s rays, college students are preparing for that first semester, and of course, parents are rushing about to schedule their children’s necessary vaccination appointments. In fact, August is such a popular month for shots that it is now officially designated National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM).
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the recognition of the importance of vaccinations highlights the need for improved coverage nationally.
“Immunizations are absolutely as important today as they were in the past,” said Kristina Roberts, Rasmussen College School of Nursing Faculty member. “Immunizations were designed and developed to protect children and adults from diseases that have the potential to cause serious morbidity and mortality.”
Even though this time of year may appear more common for elementary-age students to get vaccinated, the CDC encourages college students, as well as adults to protect their health by getting vaccinated against infectious disease.
The extra awareness comes as the whooping cough (or pertussis) outbreak picks up momentum. Whooping cough is a disease that affects the lungs and causes sufferers to cough so hard they could break a rib or vomit. The State of Minnesota has seen more whooping cough cases this year than in 65 years, and the same is happening in many other states, including Wisconsin and Washington, which both recently reported having upward of 3,000 cases.
According to the Palm Beach Post, “As of July 19, 18,000 cases [of whooping cough] had been reported in the U.S. this year, more than twice as many as last year, and 10 children have died. According to the Centers for Diseases Control, if reports of total cases continue at that rate, the outbreak will be the worst since 1959 when there were 40,000 cases.”
“This outbreak has proven to health officials that vaccines can wear off,” said Lorrie Laurin, Rasmussen College School of Health Sciences dean. “Adults should stay on top of their booster shots, and that vaccination is still the most important way to protect children and adults.” With the upcoming school year approaching, Laurin says it’s the perfect time for Rasmussen College students and staff with infants to get vaccinated, especially since infants are the most susceptible to whooping cough and tend to have very poor outcomes.
Overall, according to Medicinenet.com, “The viruses and bacteria that cause vaccine-preventable diseases and death still exist, and can infect people who are not protected by vaccine.” Those diseases will have a pricey impact, such as many doctor visits, hospitalizations, and possibly premature death.
Many states, including Minnesota, require certain vaccinations for children and adults enrolled in child care, school, or college programs, unless they have a legal exemption. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) says everyone over the age of 6 months should take a flu shot annually. Here’s HHS’ list of several common shots that children, preteens, and adults should be getting:
• All adults need a tetanus shot every 10 years.
• People age 65 need a one-time pneumonia shot.
It is important to realize the medical community has been working hard at understanding and keeping up with vaccinations for decades.
“We don’t see these diseases in the same frequency as we did in the past because vaccinations and vaccination programs work,” said Roberts, an ARNP-BC who also has a master’s degree in nursing education. “Even when a few individuals choose not to vaccinate they are benefited from what is termed ’herd immunity’. When most around are protected and less likely to develop the disease, those unvaccinated are less likely to be exposed and thereby protected.”
People of all ages from all over our nation have the decision to get vaccinated, if it is not required by law. It is important for everyone to decide what’s best for them and their family, and to keep in mind they have an important service to their family, coworkers, and others to stay up-to-date on their immunizations and protect their health and others.
Make sure to talk to your doctor or nurse to discover which shots are recommended for you and your family. If cost is an issue, check with your county to see if they offer an immunization clinic. Often times the county will have clinics in place to offset the cost of getting vaccinations.
If you are interested in learning more on how to take an active role in administering immunizations with a career as a nurse or medical assistant, visit our School of Nursing or School of Health Sciences program pages to learn more.