To help keep our local communities safe, the North Georgia Health District is proudly joining the Georgia Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) during August to participate in National Immunization Awareness Month.

National Immunization Awareness Month is the perfect time to catch up on our immunizations and to remind family, friends and coworkers to catch up on theirs.

We all need immunizations (also called vaccines or shots) to help protect us from serious diseases. It is true that some vaccine-preventable diseases have become very rare thanks to vaccines. However, outbreaks still happen.

Making sure children stay up-to-date with vaccinations is the best way to ensure our communities and schools do not see other outbreaks, with more unnecessary illnesses and deaths.

Children from birth through 6 years old are recommended to get vaccines to protect them from 14 diseases that can be serious, even life-threatening.

Vulnerable newborns too young to have received the maximum protection from the recommended doses of vaccines or people with weakened immune systems, such as some people with cancer and transplant recipients, are also at higher risk of disease.

Flu vaccines are recommended for kids in pre-school and elementary school to help keep them healthy. In fact, all children 6 months and older should get flu vaccines. Getting all your children vaccinated – as well as other family members and caregivers – can also help protect infants younger than 6 months old. Ask your family's doctor or nurse about getting flu shots or the nasal spray to protect them against flu.

Of course, everyone older than 6 months of age is recommended to receive a yearly flu vaccination, and older children are no exception! It is important to know that flu can be serious, even for healthy young people.

It is easy to forget that older children need vaccines, too. As children get older, they are more at risk for catching diseases, like meningococcal meningitis, so they, too, need the protection that vaccines provide. Specific vaccines, like HPV, are recommended to be given during the preteen (11-12) years and teen (13-18) years. If children do not get these vaccines on time, they should catch up as soon as possible.

For other diseases, like whooping cough, the protection from vaccine doses received in childhood wears off over time. That is why 11- and 12-year-olds are also recommended to get the booster shot called Tdap, which protects from Tetanus, diptheria and pertussis.

Many people think that vaccinations are only for the young; however, thousands of older adults die or have serious complications each year from vaccine-preventable diseases.

The CDC recommends that older adults get the vaccines that protect against shingles (Herpes Zoster), influenza and pneumococcal disease and that they receive a Tdap shot, as well.

For more information, contact your local North Georgia Health District public health department or visit www.cdc.gov/vaccines.

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