August in the United States is NATIONAL IMMUNIZATION AWARENESS MONTH. Not every country in the world tries to enforce or mandate the use of vaccinations or immunizations, as they are formerly called, but the United States revolves around an immunization schedule focused primarily on the child and adolescent from birth up to 18 years of age. DO NOT think that vaccines stop at the age of 18, you will receive vaccines even after 65 years of age!
There has been much debate on the administration of vaccines.
Have you ever heard of the term vaccine hesitancy? It might not sound as familiar in other parts of the world depending on their health mandates, but is constantly discussed here in America. There are various levels, but the main definition is the reluctance or refusal to be vaccinated or have one’s child vaccinated against contagious diseases despite the availability of vaccination services. Vaccine hesitancy has been identified by the WHO as one of the top ten global health threats in 2019. Vaccine hesitancy encompasses outright refusal to vaccinate, delaying vaccines, accepting vaccines but remaining uncertain about their use, or using certain vaccines but not others.
The myths an conspiracies about vaccines are endless. The hesitancy primarily comes from the medical, ethical, and legal issues related to vaccines. Some common misunderstandings are the increased risk for autism, schizophrenia, vaccine overload which leads to a weakened immune system, SIDS, ingredient concerns from the aluminum compounds, a plot to kill or sterilize Muslims, cause for epileptic seizures and MS, increased sexual behavior from the HPV vaccine, and MANY more! Even though there is no scientific proof, there are reasons to some of these beliefs that people justify their hesitancy from.
How do we bring trust to the use of vaccines?
I don’t know if we can ever bring 100% TRUST to this issue, but for me, there is only one solution: Educate,…educate….EDUCATE.
Some key messages to take away about Immunization Awareness Month:
- Unfortunately, far too few adults are receiving the recommended vaccines, leaving themselves and their loved ones vulnerable to serious diseases.
- According to CDC data,:
- Only 20% of adults 19 years or older had received Tdap vaccination. – National Health Interview Survey 2014
- Only 28% of adults 60 years or older had received shingles (herpes zoster) vaccination. – National Health Interview Survey 2014
- Only 20% of adults 19 to 64 years at increased risk had received pneumococcal vaccination. – National Health Interview Survey 2014
- Only about 44% of adults 18 years or older received a flu vaccine during the 2014-2015 flu season. – Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System 2014-2015
- Health care professionals play a critical role in educating their patients about recommended vaccines and ensuring that they are fully immunized.
- CDC asks ALL health care professionals – whether they provide immunization services or not – to routinely assess the vaccine needs of their patients and make a strong recommendation for needed vaccinations.
Adults should talk with their health care professional to learn which vaccines are recommended for them, and take steps to get up to date.
Here are some educational tools that you can utilize to address immunization awareness:
Enjoy this lovely video summary of National Immunization Awareness month by the West Virginia University (WVU) Medicine Health Report from 2016: