August is National Immunization Awareness Month, an observance which “provides an opportunity to highlight the value of immunization across the lifespan,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“Over the years, vaccines have prevented countless cases of disease and without vaccination, diseases that have been eradicated could return,” explained Monica Peele, health educator for the Military Vaccine Agency (MILVAX)-Vaccine Healthcare Centers Network (VHCN) at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC).
Lt. Col. Satyen Gada, service chief for Allergy/Immunizations/Immunology at WRNMMC agrees.
“Immunizations are instrumental to disease prevention,” Gada said. “It is important to receive vaccines as they prevent against numerous diseases known to cause significant morbidity and mortality. Vaccinations programs save countless lives each year.”
Gada and Peele added vaccinations help get babies off to a healthy start.
“There are vaccines that can be received during pregnancy; however, if you are planning to or could be pregnant, it is important to speak with your health care provider to ensure that your immunizations are up to date,” Peele said.
“There are some diseases that can be harmful for pregnant women and their babies and this can be prevented by immunizing during pregnancy,” she added. “A mother’s immune system can protect her baby during pregnancy and for the first six to 12 months, but noting that vaccines are prescriptions drugs, if you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant it is important to consult your health care provider.”
Gada added, “Pregnant women should receive the TDaP vaccine after the 27th week of pregnancy. The TDaP vaccine prevents against Tetanus, Diphtheria and Pertussis (whooping cough). Influenza vaccine is recommended during pregnancy. Additional vaccines may be advised based on individual immune status.
“Children start their immunization schedules immediately after child birth by receiving the Hepatitis B vaccine,” Gada continued. “Further vaccinations are offered at regular intervals based on consensus childhood vaccination schedules. We recommend that the children follow their pediatrics immunization schedule as well as the recommendation by the CDC. It is recommended that children receive immunizations in an effort to prevent development of Hepatitis A and B, Polio, Measles, Mumps, Rubella, Varicella (Chickenpox), Pneumococcal, Haemophilus Influenza, Rotavirus, Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis, Neisseria Meningitides, as well as common strains of Influenza virus, which vary from year to year.”
The CDC, Peele and Gada agree schools are a prime venue for transmitting vaccine-preventable diseases, and school-age children can further spread disease to their families and others with whom they come in contact. They add most schools require children to be up to date on vaccinations before enrolling or starting school in order to protect the health of all students and those with whom they may come into contact.
“Most school systems require completion of the CDC childhood immunization schedule, though this may vary slightly with each public school district/private school,” Gada explained. “It is best to contact your school/school district for specific requirements.”
Both Peele and Gada stated students headed to college should receive the Meningococcal vaccine, which protects against bacterial meningitis. Peele added college students should also be up to date with their TDaP vaccine, and consider receiving the HPV vaccine protecting against the human papillomavirus (HPV) that causes most cervical and anal cancers, as well as genital warts. She added college student should also receive the seasonal Influenza vaccine.
“If young adults are planning to attend college out of the country or even travel out of the country for vacation or study abroad, they should explore what vaccines are required prior to traveling to that country,” Peele continued.
Concerning the military, Gada said service members receive a variety of immunizations based on assignments, location and concern for particular biological threats. “These immunizations are set forth depending on area of operation, and nature of assignment.”
“The Department of Defense (DOD) receives immunization policy and recommendations from the Food and Drug Administration, World Health Organization, CDC [and] Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices,” Peele said. She added more information concerning pre-deployment and post-deployment information, policies and guidelines for clinicians, service members, their families and veterans can be found on the Deployment Health Clinical Center website at http://www.pdhealth.mil, or the MILVAX-Vaccine Healthcare Centers Network (VHCN) website at www.vaccines.mil.
Beneficiaries requiring immunizations can be seen at the WRNMMC Allergy/Immunology/Immunizations Clinic in the America Building, Building 19, 4th floor, on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, contact Hospitalman 1st Class Erik Eaton or Lydia Baker, head immunization nurse, at 301-295-5798.
For more information, contact the MILVAX VHCN at 301-319-2904 or email https://ASKVHC.amedd.army.mil. After hours, weekends and holidays, call the DOD Vaccine Clinical Call Center at 866-210-6469.