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Officials promoting vaccines for children, adults

ALBANY, Ga. — Immunizations are not just for infants and children, but adults as well.

August is National Immunization Awareness Month. This is the time of year when many children are going back to school, a process that includes getting vaccinations up to date.

That makes it as a good a time as any to keep the importance of making sure shots are received when they are supposed to be on everyone’s mind.

“It’s critical to get the message out on how important immunizations are,” said Vamella Lovett, manager of the Dougherty County Health Department. “It helps prevent disease. If kids don’t get vaccinated we go back to 30-40 years ago when they were getting diseases like chicken pox.

“It’s about preventing outbreaks. If one child in a school gets a disease, it can spread.”

Lovett was previously the adult health director for the health department before recently being promoted. In addition to her role as health department manager, she is currently overseeing the area’s adult immunization program.

“Adult immunizations are important for the same reasons, to keep from coming down with diseases,” Lovett said. “It’s especially important for those around young babies, or for those who may not have developed immunities as children.”

Even college students are getting vaccinations for bacterial meningitis; human papillomavirus (HVP) and tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (Tdap). Vaccinations are also particularly important to those with compromised immune systems, experts say.

Experts also say it is important to remember that different shots are appropriate for different populations at different ages. The recommendations are as follows:

  • Children under age 6 get a series of vaccines to protect against measles, mumps, polio, chicken pox, meningitis and hepatitis;
  • Eleven and 12-year-olds need shots to help protect them against tetanus, diphtheria, whooping cough and meningitis;
  • Doctors also recommend preteens get the HPV vaccine to protect against the most common cause of cervical cancer in girls, and some cancers in boys;
  • Adolescents and adults need the Tdap vaccine. Adults over 64 can now have this vaccine as well;
  • Adults need a tetanus shot every 10 years;
  • People age 65 need a one-time pneumonia shot.

Vaccinations are one of the most successful and cost-effective public health tools available for preventing disease and death, public health officials say.

“When adults get sick, they are not able to be productive, so (with vaccines) they can prevent themselves from coming down with illness,” Lovett said. “Vaccinations have been proven to be successful with preventing disease. You are not only protecting yourself, but those around you.”

In addition to a doctor’s office, whatever immunizations a person needs can also be provided at a health department at a cost which depends on the vaccine or the patient’s health insurance coverage.

“We don’t deny services because of inability to pay,” Lovett said.