Back-to-school immunizations are for parents too

National Immunization Awareness Month naturally coincides with the back-to-school season for Maryland children and throughout August, health officials are stressing the need for students to have their shots updated.

However, Maryland doctors at MedChi, the state’s Medical Society, say vaccines are not just for children, they are a lifelong public safety necessity and are urging all residents to have a conversation with their healthcare provider about the most appropriate vaccine schedule for the entire family.

They say this will help to protect against a broad range of dangerous and potentially deadly illnesses like the flu, measles, whopping cough, meningitis, and pneumococcal disease.

“Vaccines are one of our greatest public health tools. They were created to protect us from dangerous and often fatal disease,” said Gene Ransom, president and CEO of MedChi. “When kids go back to school, they are back on that schedule of interacting with other kids on a daily basis; playing outside during recess; or sharing space inside while in class or during snack time.”

Children today are exposed to more germs, and there is a need to make sure they’re protected.

“If your child is not vaccinated, they are more susceptible to disease. Additionally, unimmunized children can readily transmit vaccine-preventable illnesses to other kids in their class,” Ransom said. “As parents, it is critical to make sure that you are protecting your child and other children in the classroom.”

However, as important as it is for children to have their shots, Ransom says adults need them as well. They are a lifelong, year-round medical necessity, and a critical public health tool for protecting against a broad range of dangerous and potentially deadly illnesses.

Further, as individuals grow older, the immune system changes and requires additional protection. College age students, for example, and anyone living in close quarters, such as dorms, are more susceptible to the spread of meningitis and vaccines now exist for all strains of the meningococcal disease, according to Ransom.

“Adults need a booster shot every 10 years to help protect against tetanus and diphtheria. All adults over the age of 65 and those with chronic conditions such as heart disease, asthma and lung disease, and liver disease should be vaccinated against the spread of pneumococcal disease,” he said.

It should be noted that there is no typical amount of time that a vaccine lasts as it varies depending on which vaccine an individual receives; a health professionals have said.

“Many last for about five to 10 years,” Ransom said, adding that no vaccine lasts a lifetime and oftentimes a booster shot is required to make sure it’s still effective.

Patients should also speak with their primary care doctor about the duration of any vaccine.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has alerted the public of the re-emergence of several childhood diseases that were once thought to be extinct, and should be more impetus to keep up with vaccination.

“The reemergence is mostly due to people not vaccinating their children. If a child is not vaccinated and is exposed to one of these illnesses and brings it into the school, it will become an epidemic,” Ransom said. “That is why it is so critical that parents vaccinate their children, and that we continue to stay on a vaccine schedule throughout our lives. Vaccines are safe and a critical public health tool. When we get vaccinated, we not only protect ourselves, but those around us,”