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August 1, 2006 > Have You Had Your Shots?

Have You Had Your Shots?

Immunization Awareness Month Focuses on Keeping Vaccinations Up-to-Date

Vaccines have been an amazing success story. Over the last century, we have seen many advances against infectious diseases such as diphtheria, smallpox, polio, and measles thanks to immunizations. But despite important breakthroughs, tens of thousands of people in the U.S. still die from vaccine-preventable diseases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

August is National Immunization Month, designed to focus public attention on the need for both children and adults to keep their vaccinations current. Recommended vaccinations begin soon after birth and continue throughout life. Getting immunized is a lifelong, life-protecting community effort.

"It’s not that long ago people died of diphtheria, and that’s almost unheard of today," said Dr. Steven Curran, Washington Hospital Medical Staff family practice physician and medical director of Washington Clinic/Warm Springs and Washington Clinic/Newark. "Vaccines have made a huge impact on public health."

Vaccines offer safe and effective protection from infectious diseases. They work with your body to protect it from diseases caused by bacteria and virus germs, helping it build up antibodies that stay in your bloodstream ready to fight the germs if you come in contact with them, making you immune.

"Even in the last few decades there have been major gains," Curran said. "The haemophilus influenza type b vaccine has significantly reduced childhood meningitis just in the last decade."

Most vaccines are given during the first five to six years of life. The first shot is generally administered soon after birth, before the baby leaves the hospital.

Vaccines have the ability to protect kids from 13 serious diseases, including measles, mumps, rubella (German measles), diphtheria, tetanus (lockjaw), pertussis (whooping cough), polio, haemophilus influenzae type b (hib disease), meningitis, hepatitis b, varicella (chickenpox), hepatitis a, and pneumococcal disease. At least one shot is needed for each of these diseases, and for some of them several doses are required for the best protection.

This adds up to a lot of shots, although several can be given at the same time. Some parents worry that it may not be safe to give several shots at once, or that it could overload the immune system, but studies have shown these fears are unfounded.

"A lot of vaccines are required by schools, so it’s easier to keep them up-to-date for kids," Curran said. "But for adults, it’s often harder to keep track."
Adults Need to Stay Protected

According to the CDC, each year approximately 43,000 adults in the U.S. die from vaccine-preventable diseases such as influenza and pneumonia. Yet the CDC estimates that 50 to 80 percent of adults in this country don’t have one or more of the shots they need to fully protect themselves from infectious diseases.

It’s not really surprising that most adults are not up-to-date. There are many more vaccinations available today than when most adults were under the watchful care of a pediatrician. Usually when adults go to the doctor, it’s for a specific problem, not for preventive care.

There are six recommended immunizations for adults: Tetanus, diphtheria, one-dose booster every 10 years; influenza, one dose annually for those over 50 or with chronic health conditions; pneumococcal for healthy adults 65 years and older, one dose provides a lifetime of protection; measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) - most adults born after 1956 should receive at least one dose; chickenpox for those who haven’t had the disease; and hepatitis A and B.

"Hepatitis A is not routinely recommended everywhere," Curran said. "But in places like California, Texas and Florida, where there are many more cases, we do recommend it."

Some diseases, like chickenpox, can be much more serious for adults, who are more likely to develop complications. Pregnant women are at particular risk, along with their unborn babies.

"Many of the vaccine-preventable diseases have no cures, so it is imperative that we stop them with the use of vaccines," Curran said. "It’s easy to forget that hundreds of thousands of people used to die from diseases we can now prevent. Vaccines are the reason, so we can’t afford to take them for granted."

It’s also important when traveling to other countries to make sure both children and adults receive the proper vaccinations.
  
Immunizations for children and adults are offered at Washington Clinic/Warm Springs, Washington Clinic/Newark, and Nakamura Clinic, Union City.  To make an appointment, call (510) 797-7535 for the Newark clinic, (510) 651-2371 or (408) 946-6443 for the Warm Springs clinic or (510) 487-6000 for the Union City clinic.
  
To help you learn about the signs and symptoms of the flu and other viruses, Dr. Hoang Trinh, Medical Director of Washington Hospital’s Nakamura Clinic will present a special Health & Wellness seminar on Tuesday, August 22 from 1 to 2 p.m. The seminar will be held in the Conference Center adjacent to Washington Hospital’s Nakamura Clinic at 33077 Alvarado-Niles Road in Union City. To register to attend - which is required - please call (800) 963-7070.

To learn more about services available at Washington Hospital’s primary care clinics located in Newark, Warm Springs, Fremont and Union City, visit www.whhs.com, click on "Our Facilities," and select "Washington Hospital Clinics."

For current vaccinations recommended by the CDC for both children and adults, visit www.cdc.gov/nip.
 

 
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