Healthy start to the new school year starts with vaccinations

| August 26, 2016 | 0 Comments
Judy Schmidt, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Immunization is one of the most important things a parent can do to protect their children's health.

Immunization is one of the most important things a parent can do to protect their children’s health. (Army photo)

Melissa Stafford Jones
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
In August, you’ll see back-to-school ads from virtually every store. These ads will try to convince you that you need to buy clothes, shoes, supplies, sporting equipment, lunch-making materials, cleaning wipes and a myriad of other products.

The average family will spend in excess of $600 per child for back-to-school items – and significantly more for college-bound students, especially when they need to furnish that freshman dorm room.

Back-to-school has become the second largest shopping season in the year.

There is one more item that should be on your back-to-school list: immunizations!

Immunizations are something every child and young adult should have before they head back to school. That may be why August is National Immunization Awareness Month.

Some of the greatest medical breakthroughs have been the development of effective vaccines for illnesses, which have killed or injured hundreds of thousands of people in the past.

According to the CDC, “… among children born during 1994-2013, vaccination will prevent an estimated 322 million illnesses, 21 million hospitalizations and 732,000 deaths over the course of their lifetimes, at a net savings of $295 billion in direct costs and $1.38 trillion in total societal costs.”

New vaccines
In recent years, we’ve looked eagerly for vaccines for HIV, hepatitis C, Ebola, the Zika virus and other emerging diseases, just as in the past people have looked for vaccines for polio, measles, mumps, rubella and smallpox.

Many of the vaccinations we receive in this country are for “childhood illnesses.” Despite the inoffensive title, these illnesses can be quite serious or even deadly, especially for the very young, the elderly or those with immune systems compromised by diabetes, cancer, lung diseases or other illnesses.

Many people currently live with the long term effects of diseases acquired in childhood –some, like polio – have been largely eradicated thanks to immunizations.

Vaccinations are also important to protect those who for medical reasons can’t be immunized. Community Immunity or “Herd Immunity” helps protect these individuals by containing the spread of diseases.

Add this one extra item to that back-to-school list. Make sure your child is fully immunized. While you’re at it, check to see if your immunizations are all up to date, as immunity to many diseases, such as whooping cough and tetanus, can dissipate over time. The flu vaccine, however, is different each year.

There is good news with this back-to-school item though. Recommended vaccinations are available as a preventive health service through marketplace plans, so this won’t add to your back-to-school expenses. Just be sure to follow your plan’s guidance on where you should get your vaccinations to be sure the cost is covered.

Every child (and parent) should have a safe and healthy school year. Immunizations are an easy way to start out at the head of the class.
(Editor’s note: Jones is the regional director of the DHHS.)

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Category: Health

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