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Regular vaccinations support individual, community health

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With summer drawing to a close, it will soon be time to focus on getting back into more “normal” routines. Afterschool practices, homework, carpool duties and the like become the order of the day once more. But there’s another routine that shouldn’t be ignored amid all of the excitement of a new school year — immunizations.

August is National Immunization Awareness Month and serves as a great reminder of the important role that regular immunizations play in making communities healthier.

Immunizations are recommended for all ages and are one of the safest and most effective defenses against preventable diseases. Following recommended vaccination schedules from birth to adulthood can help ensure your child stays healthy, is protected from serious diseases and avoids unnecessary school absences. But the benefits don’t stop there.

Child care and school settings are notorious for the spread of infectious diseases, so by ensuring that your children are up to date on their immunizations, you’re not only protecting them, but helping to protect their classmates and other families in the community, too.

As the new academic year approaches, keep these tips in mind to ensure that your child stays healthy and ready to learn:

• Check your child’s immunization record, and schedule a visit with a pediatrician for any necessary vaccinations. Most schools require students to be up to date on all immunizations.

• Always keep your child’s immunization record in a safe place.

• Provide your child’s school with an updated record every time he or she receives a vaccine.

If you have questions regarding your child’s immunizations, be sure to consult a pediatrician. Additionally, annual physicals, sick visits or any other trip to the doctor is a great time to bring up your child’s immunization record and double-check that it’s current.

Not just for children

The importance of immunizations doesn’t end after childhood. Vaccines for adults are recommended based on a number of factors, including age, prior vaccination history, health, lifestyle, occupation and travel patterns.

All adults can benefit from vaccinations that help prevent a number of diseases, including influenza, shingles, pneumonia, hepatitis and whooping cough. Some vaccines, like the Hepatitis B and HPV vaccines, can even help prevent certain cancers that might result from vaccine-preventable infections.

Talk with your primary care provider about which vaccines you need, and bring up any health-related issues you may be experiencing. Certain health conditions, lifestyles or risk factors — like pregnancy, breastfeeding, chronic illness, immune disorders, severe allergies and cancer treatments — can play into the benefit and timing of vaccinations.

By staying current on the appropriate immunizations, you’re not only helping to protect yourself, but others in your family and community as well, especially those at risk for serious complications from vaccine-preventable diseases.

If you or your child needs a primary care provider, Wilson Medical Center can help you identify one by calling our Physician Referral Line at 800.424.DOCS (3627).

For more information, visit www.cdc.gov/vaccines. For easy-to-read immunization schedules for children and adults, visit www.cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules/easy-ro-read/index.html.

Ron Stahl, M.D., is the chief medical officer at Wilson Medical Center.

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