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August is National Immunization Awareness Month – An annual effort to highlight the importance of immunization and disease control efforts in the United States.

Coughing and sneezing, nausea and fatigue; these symptoms accompany various illnesses and can really put a damper on your day. For ages, parents have been teaching their children the basics of battling the common cold: frequent handwashing, drinking lots of fluids, eating a well-balanced diet, and getting plenty of sleep, among them. However, there are more serious infectious diseases (some of which are deadly) that people need to take extra precautions against; to address these, various vaccines have been developed.

Disease prevention is key to public health – it’s better to prevent a disease than to treat it. By strengthening immunity and reducing the risk of further spreading germs and bacteria, vaccinations control many infectious diseases. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a standard set of routine vaccines for infants and children, preteens and teens, and adults, which cover many of the most common preventable diseases such as measles, mumps, Hepatitis A/B, and chickenpox. This general, recommended dosing schedule helps ensure everyone receives the right vaccines at the right time. There are numerous benefits to following the CDC-recommended vaccination schedule:

  • Many infectious diseases that once routinely killed or harmed many infants, children, and adults have been reduced or eliminated. The goal is to keep immunizing until the diseases are eliminated.
    • Smallpox was eradicated in 1980 as a result of worldwide vaccination efforts.
  • Vaccines help protect the health of the community by preventing the spread of diseases, especially to those who cannot be immunized due to age or other medical conditions.
  • Vaccines can eliminate the cost of missing work to care for a sick child, visiting a doctor, and hospitalization.

Massachusetts has certain additional recommendations and requirements for adults in select occupational groups. Also, as children get ready to go back to school, it is important to take note of the school immunization requirements for all grade levels, including college, in Massachusetts. For families who may not be able to afford the expense of immunizing their children, the Vaccines for Children (VFC) program is a federally funded program that provides vaccines at no cost. Be sure to check with your healthcare provider to make sure you and your child are up-to-date.

When travelling abroad, there may be additional immunizations that are recommended or required depending on the destination you’re visiting. These immunizations not only protect you, but also the public, from any foreign diseases that you might inadvertently bring back to America.

As with any medication, there are possible side effects of vaccines that, in most cases, are minor and will go away within a few days. Parents can follow some basic tips and advice to help make a doctor’s visit less stressful for both themselves and their children. Overall, getting vaccinated has benefits that far outweigh the risks and is important in helping to build a happy and healthy future.

 

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