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Health officials urge immunizations for students, parents

By Johnny Jackson

jjackson@henryherald.com

This month, public health officials are stressing the importance of keeping up-to-date immunizations, as August is National Immunization Awareness Month.

As the school year kicks off, health workers are urging updated immunizations for the entire family -- students and parents alike.

"We kind of think that immunizations are just for children, but they are not," said Hayla Hall, a risk communicator for the state's District 4 Health Services office, which covers several Georgia counties, including Butts, Henry, Coweta, Fayette, and Spalding.

"Adults need to be current on their immunizations, too," Hall said. "It is important for adults to look at their vaccination records, and check with their physicians on what other vaccinations they may want, or need."

Because children are particularly vulnerable to infection, most vaccines are given during the first five to six years of life, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Other immunizations are recommended during adolescent or adult years, and, for certain vaccines, booster immunizations are recommended throughout life.

Hall said timely vaccination has not only helped stave off infections for individuals, but it has helped reduce infectious outbreaks among the general public.

"According to the CDC, vaccines have eliminated small pox and polio in the United States," she said. "Measles, whooping cough (pertussis) and the leading cause of meningitis in children under age 5, are among those that have been significantly reduced through vaccination."

The risk communicator said proactive parents can also aid in reducing the likelihood of spreading diseases in their own homes. "Vaccines protect not only the individual receiving them from infectious diseases, but also protect their families and communities by containing the spread of disease," Hall said. "Receiving immunizations throughout life is necessary to stay fully protected."

"Getting immunized is a lifelong, life-protecting, community effort, regardless of age, sex, race, ethnic background or country of origin," added Diane Watson, the Georgia Department of Community Health's director of the Office of Immunization. "With summer coming to a close and parents preparing to send kids back to school, August is a great time to catch up on immunizations."

Watson recommends that residents contact their health-care provider, or local health department, to make sure their immunizations are up to date. Some adult immunizations are recommended only for certain age groups, or those meeting certain risk criteria.

The Georgia Department of Community Health recommends the following vaccinations for children, adolescents and adults:

Children (birth to six years of age)

* Hepatitis B

* Rotavirus

* Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis (whooping cough)

* Haemophilus influenzae type b

* Pneumococcal (pneumonia)

* Poliovirus (polio)

* Influenza (flu)

* Measles, Mumps, Rubella

* Varicella (Chicken Pox)

* Hepatitis A

* Meningococcal (causes meningitis and sepsis)

Adolescents (through 18 years of age)

* Human Papillomavirus (HPV)

* Meningococcal (causes meningitis and sepsis)

* Influenza (flu)

* Tetanus, Diphtheria, Pertussis (Tdap booster)

* Varicella (second dose maybe needed)

Adults (19 through 65 years of age)

* Tetanus, Diphtheria, Pertussis (Td/Tdap)

* Human papillomavirus (HPV)

* Varicella (chicken pox)

* Zoster (shingles)

* Measles, mumps, rubella

* Influenza (flu)

* Pneumococcal (pneumonia)

* Hepatitis A

* Hepatitis B

* Meningococcal (causes meningitis and sepsis)

To learn more about vaccinations for school-aged children, visit the department's School and Childcare web page, at http://health.state.ga.us/programs/immunization/schools.asp