In the month of August, many of our thoughts turn to summer coming to a close and getting the children in our lives ready to return to school. I would strongly encourage you to shift your attention to something else... vaccinations! Most of us born in the 20th century take vaccinations for granted; we might even have forgotten the importance of being vaccinated. That is why August has been designated Immunization Awareness Month. Like testing your fire alarms in conjunction with daylight saving time, Immunization Awareness Month comes with the start of the school year. With children and adults going back to school in the fall, many schools require immunizations to be up to date in order to enroll. The purpose of Immunization Awareness Month is to promote the benefits of immunization.
Immunization is touted as one of the most significant public health achievements of the 20th century. It is thought to have begun in 17th or 18th century and was believed to be initially focused on the eradication of small pox. Thankfully it worked! Vaccines have eradicated small pox, polio and greatly decreased the number of individuals who get measles, diphtheria, rubella, whooping cough and other diseases. Rotary International continues to do amazing work in this area and recently has publicized its work to eradicate polio. This past spring I saw a half-page ad in the Chicago Tribune with a picture of Itzhak Perlman, the great virtuoso violinist. He was looking directly at the reader with his thumb and index finger spread about 1 inch apart. The phrase by his hand said, "We are this close to ending polio." The ad highlighted the work of Rotary International and reminded us that polio still cripples thousands of children worldwide. Their goal is to "...wipe this disease off the face of the earth forever." Check out how the effort is going and how being immunized helps to get rid of this disease and improve the communities' overall health.
It is important to have everyone vaccinated, especially children and older adults, in order to ensure healthy lives. There are many nonprofit organizations that provide immunization information including institutions that administer "free vaccinations" and concerns about vaccines. A simple search on the Internet will often produce information about where to get vaccinated in your community. Additionally, check with the Center for Disease Control's website, which provides details about a vaccination schedule and other pertinent information.
Also remember, when you go to the doctor regularly you not only keep up to date on your vaccines, but also on your health in general. Most regular checkups start with a blood draw. Doctors can screen for a lot of things based on your blood draw and can catch disease in early stages when this is done regularly. This simple step can save a life and improve the health of the community.
Here are five (5) recommendations and tips on the importance of immunization that will Make A Difference (M.A.D.):
1. The purpose of Immunization Awareness Month in August is to promote the benefits of immunization; check with your family, both young and old, to make sure everyone is immunized.
2. Create a chart to track the immunizations of all family members including children, parents and grandparents; check it annually.
3. Organize a health fair in your community for screenings, immunizations and bone marrow donor tests!
4. Check out the CDC website for tips and recommendations
5. Make a financial contribution to a nonprofit organization focused on insuring that the most vulnerable in our society, children and older adults, are vaccinated. A nonprofit organization doing amazing work in this area is the Immunization Action Coalition.
Bonus Tip: Contact your local public health department for additional information. They are a great resource in your community! You can find yours by going to www.hhs.gov/about/.
By working together and insuring all who need to be are vaccinated, we will be making our immediate communities and world healthier. We will truly be Making A Difference! Are you M.A.D.?