August is National Immunization Awareness Month, and the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) wants to remind the public that immunizations are important for people of all ages.

Childhood/adolescent vaccinations

Routine childhood vaccinations protect children from 16 serious diseases. The immunization schedule recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is designed to provide immunity early in life before children are potentially exposed to serious diseases. Some vaccines require more than one dose to provide the best protection; it is important to receive each dose at the recommended time.

Dr. Fauzia Khan, director of the OSDH Immunization Service, said vaccines are safe and effective at preventing serious, potentially life-threatening diseases.

“While many serious diseases are no longer common in the United States, some still exist and can spread to those who aren’t vaccinated,” said Khan. “This is particularly concerning for infants who are too young to be immunized or even to adults who have health conditions which prohibit them from receiving vaccinations.”

Childhood diseases such as whooping cough, chickenpox and even measles remain in the United States, and can be prevented by vaccines.

Maternal vaccinations

It is important for pregnant women to be up to date on vaccinations prior to becoming pregnant, and also to receive recommended vaccines during pregnancy to protect the baby after birth by passing on antibodies. Some illnesses such as the flu are more serious for pregnant women as changes to the immune system, heart and lungs make them more prone to severe illness and puts them at risk of premature labor and delivery.

Receiving a Tdap vaccine during pregnancy provides protection against whooping cough for a mother and her baby.

“The Tdap and flu vaccines are safe to receive during pregnancy,” said Khan. “A 2017 CDC report found Tdap vaccination during the third trimester prevents more than 3 in 4 cases of whooping cough in babies younger than 2 months old.”

Whooping cough is a contagious illness causing uncontrollable coughing which can lead to choking or vomiting. Anyone can get whooping cough but it is especially dangerous for infants. Health officials recommend vaccinations for parents, grandparents, siblings and childcare workers who are in contact with infants.

Adult vaccinations

In addition to the routine childhood immunizations, adults need vaccinations to protect against other illnesses such as shingles, pneumonia, tetanus and the flu. For those with conditions such as diabetes, illnesses like the flu can make it difficult to control blood sugar.

Vaccines are also important in preventing adults, especially those over the age of 65, from becoming seriously ill or being hospitalized from a number of illnesses.

The CDC provides an adult vaccine assessment tool to help determine which vaccines may be appropriate. The tool can be viewed at https://go.usa.gov/xVC95.

For more information about recommended vaccinations for children or adults, contact the OSDH Immunization Service at (405) 271-4073 or visit http://imm.health.ok.gov.