State Health Officer
Protect Yourself and Others By Getting Immunized
National Immunization Awareness Month is an annual observance held in August to highlight the importance of vaccination for people of all ages, starting with infants. Getting vaccinated according to the recommended immunization schedule is one of the most important things parents can do to protect their children’s health and adults can do to protect their own health.
Diseases can quickly spread among groups of children who are not vaccinated. Whether it is a baby entering a childcare facility, a toddler going to preschool, a student returning to elementary, middle, or high school – or even a college freshman – parents should check their child’s vaccination records. All of these settings are prone to outbreaks of infectious diseases. Children can easily spread illnesses to one another due to poor hand washing, not covering their coughs, and other factors such as interacting in crowded environments.
Alabama law requires children of all ages to be up to date on their immunizations before attending school and childcare centers. Every child needs to be vaccinated against polio, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis – also known as whooping cough -- measles, mumps, rubella, and chickenpox. Parents must provide their child’s school or childcare center with an updated Certificate of Immunization showing the month, day, and year their child received each of these vaccines.
Immunizations do not stop with small children – preteens, adolescents, college-age students, and adults also need vaccines appropriate for their age groups. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the following four vaccines are needed to protect them against serious diseases:
- Meningococcal conjugate vaccine to protect against meningitis and blood infections (septicemia).
- HPV (human papilloma virus) vaccine to protect against cancers caused by HPV.
- Tdap vaccine to protect against tetanus, diphtheria, and whooping cough (pertussis).
- Annual flu vaccine to protect against seasonal flu.
Vaccination is also recommended for adults. Even healthy adults can become seriously ill and pass diseases on to others. The CDC recommends that everyone have their vaccination needs assessed at their doctor’s office, pharmacy, or other visits with health care providers. Certain vaccines are recommended based on a person’s age, occupation, or health conditions (such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes, or heart disease).
Vaccination is important because it not only protects the person receiving the vaccine; it helps prevent the spread of disease, especially to those who are most vulnerable to serious complications. These include infants and young children, the elderly, and those with chronic conditions and weakened immune systems.
All adults, including pregnant women, should get the influenza (flu) vaccine each year to protect against seasonal flu. Every adult should have one dose of Tdap vaccine (tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis or whooping cough) if they did not get Tdap as a teen, and then get the Td (tetanus and diphtheria) booster vaccine every 10 years. Pregnant women should receive a Tdap vaccine each time they are pregnant, preferably at 27 through 36 weeks of pregnancy.
Adults 60 years and older are recommended to receive the shingles vaccine, and adults 65 and older are recommended to receive one or more pneumococcal vaccines. Some adults younger than 65 years with certain high-risk conditions are also recommended to receive one or more pneumococcal vaccinations. Adults may need other vaccines (such as hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and HPV) depending on their age, occupation, travel, medical conditions, vaccinations they have already received, or other considerations.
For more information on vaccines, which diseases they protect against, and Alabama’s school immunization law, visit alabamapublichealth.gov/immunization. Use your “power to protect” by getting your family and yourself immunized.
Thomas M. Miller, M.D.
State Health Officer
Page last updated: July 31, 2017