The following article was contributed by Bruce Weiss, M.D., M.P.H., Market Medical Director, UnitedHealthcare of Wisconsin
Throughout our lives we’ve all been reminded and urged to have ourselves and our children immunized. For children, schools require proper immunization, but perhaps more importantly, serious diseases may be avoided if people of all ages follow recommended immunization guidelines.
August is National Immunization Awareness Month, a timely reminder for all of us to make sure our families’ immunization records are complete and up to date.
According to America’s Health Rankings, a state-by-state analysis of the nation’s health, 93.5 percent of Wisconsin children aged 19 months to 35 months have received the recommended vaccinations, which is higher than the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) target of at least 90 percent. While our state ranks high (fourth nationally) in this category, families should remain committed to maintaining immunization records.
The CDC reaffirmed the importance of immunizations when it reported that, from January through June 17 of this year, there were 156 confirmed cases of measles, the highest reported number in a year since 1996.
Here are a few immunization tips all families should keep in mind:
- Ask your doctor what immunizations your child needs and what age your child should get them.
- Follow your doctor’s immunization schedule. When your child is getting one shot, make an appointment for the next.
- Most immunizations are given by the time children are 2 years old, but some are given into the teen years.
- Ask your doctor for a copy of the screening and immunization record. This will help you keep track of your child’s tests and shots, which child care providers and schools will ask for.
- Your child may run a fever or have swelling in the shot location after getting the immunization. Check with your doctor about possible side effects and giving your child an over-the-counter pain medication. Follow the doctor’s directions carefully.
Over the years vaccines have eradicated smallpox and eliminated wild poliovirus in the United States, and significantly reduced the number of reported cases of measles and other diseases. Vaccines are one of the most effective ways to protect children and adults from many common but serious infectious diseases. At the same time, keeping people healthier through immunization lowers associated social and financial costs for families, including time lost from school and work, and the cost of medical bills.
The CDC’s recommended immunization schedule for children aged birth through 6 years suggests timely inoculation against hepatitis A and B, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis, polio, measles-mumps-rubella and other diseases. The schedules may be found online at http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/recs/schedules/default.htm.
In addition, the CDC highlights programs that help people keep up to date on their immunizations, including Vaccines for Children Program (http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/programs/vfc/default.htm), a federally funded program that provides vaccines at no cost to children who are eligible.
Another helpful online resource, www.uhcpreventivecare.com, provides information about preventive care guidelines – such as routine health screenings and immunization schedules – that are customized based on age and gender.
It’s important to remember that a quick visit to the doctor’s office for regular and timely immunizations is a simple step to help prevent your child from possibly developing a serious disease down the road.