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Immunization Awareness Month Kicks Off in August

WASHINGTON -- August is National Immunization Awareness Month, and while vaccines are important for people of all ages, they're vital to the Defense Department's fighting force, the director of the Military Vaccine Agency, Vaccine Healthcare Centers Networks said.

Army Col. (Dr.) Margaret Yacovone emphasized that vaccinations are safe and effective, and without them, debilitating diseases and even death can occur.

"[About] 46,000 Americans ... and 1.5 million children die from vaccine-preventable illnesses each year," she said.

Studies also have found there is evidence that vaccinating children causes autism, Yacovone pointed out. Failing to inoculate children for childhood diseases also puts other children at risk, Yacovone added.

"Vaccines have had tremendous success," Yacovone said. And while many diseases have been eradicated from the United States, some, such as measles
and pertussis, have reappeared because of complacency and people who choose to not vaccinate, she said, noting that measles still accounts for 169,000 deaths each year worldwide.

Pertussis also called "whooping cough" has also made resurgence for the same reasons. And because of complacency, vaccine manufacturers have added the pertussis vaccine to the inoculations for diphtheria and tetanus, she said.

Yacovone noted that it's important for pregnant women, health care and daycare workers to get the "Tdap" tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis vaccination.

While infants and children have developing immune systems and need early childhood vaccinations, the older population should consider getting the shingles shot to prevent or lessen the potential for the painful resurgence of the virus that causes chicken pox, she noted.

Another shot for older people or those with compromised respiratory systems is for pneumonia.

In addition, there are immunizations for adolescents such as the vaccine for meningitis and the human papillomavirus.

Most critical is the need for all age groups to get the annual influenza vaccine, Yacovone said.

"[Everyone] 6 months and older should get flu vaccine. [Influenza] mutates rapidly and develops new strains."

It's particularly important for pregnant women to get the flu shot to protect themselves and their unborn babies, Yacovone added.

Without being properly up-to-date on vaccinations, countless days are lost from school and work, she added.

And in a global society where traveling from country to country is common, unvaccinated travelers can contract U.S.-eradicated diseases and bring them back home, Yacovone said.

"It's important for people to consult with their health care providers to determine which immunizations are best for them," she said.
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