Southwest Georgia public health officials pushing immunization awareness

August is National Immunization Awareness Month

ALBANY — Many potentially dangerous vaccine-preventable diseases, such as whooping cough, are still common in the United States, which has promoted reminders from the Southwest Public Health District to the public to educate themselves on the vaccinations they might need.

August is National Immunization Awareness Month, and the health district is observing it by emphasizing three points:

— Parents should ask their children’s health care professionals about vaccines they need;

— Adults should talk to their health care professionals about vaccines recommended for them;

— Health care professionals should recommend vaccines their patients need when they need them.

“Certain people may be at higher risk for getting some diseases or having more serious illness if they were to get sick, like young children, older adults, and those with health conditions,” Southwest Public Health District Director Dr. Jacqueline Grant said in a news release. “During the pertussis outbreak earlier this year, we had infants who required hospitalization in intensive care settings because of the severity of their illness.”

If mothers of infants and those around them are vaccinated against pertussis, herd immunity will help protect even babies too young to receive pertussis vaccine, which public health officials have said about other vaccinations — such as the one for seasonal flu.

“Another point to consider is that diseases not common here are still found in other parts of the world and can still be a threat,” said Becky Snow, immunization coordinator for the health district, in the release. “Many of the outbreaks reported in 2014 are direct results of an imported case spreading in an unvaccinated population. Unvaccinated travelers who are infected with measles abroad continue to bring the disease into the U.S.”

Once they do, it quickly spreads when it reaches communities with groups of people who are unvaccinated, she said.

“Any of these diseases could be serious, even for healthy people,” Snow said.

Snow stressed that all vaccines used in the U.S require extensive safety testing before they are licensed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Officials say both the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention work with health care professionals throughout the U.S. to monitor vaccine safety.

“Vaccinations can be administered by your county health department or by your private healthcare provider,” Snow said. “The important thing to know is that vaccinations are considered to be the most successful and cost-effective public health tool available against dangerous vaccine-preventable diseases, including measles, influenza, meningitis, whooping cough and pneumonia.”