National Immunization Awareness Month: Vaccines Provide Protection
COVID-19 disrupted many things in our society including our vaccination efforts, putting children and adults at risk for catching serious diseases including hepatitis A, hepatitis B, meningitis, and whooping cough. Now more than ever, it is important to make sure all children are caught up on all recommended vaccines. If your child has fallen behind on routine immunizations, talk to a healthcare provider as soon as possible to catch-up. One of these vaccines could save your child’s life.
This August, during National Immunization Awareness Month, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) launched a national effort called “Catch-Up to Get Ahead” to urge both parents and healthcare providers to catch children up on recommended vaccines delayed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Catch-Up to Get Ahead is a call to action that works to
- Increase access to childhood vaccines
- Coordinate communication efforts and provide messages and graphics for partners
- Utilize policy options to reduce barriers
For example, to increase access to lifesaving childhood vaccines, HHS is encouraging health care providers to expand clinic hours for the administration of catch-up vaccines. As part of this effort, HHS issued a third amendment to the Declaration under the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act (PREP Act), authorizing state-licensed pharmacists to order and administer all routinely recommended vaccines to children and teens aged 3-18 years, subject to several requirements outlined in this amendment.
These expanded options allow families to catch-up on recommended vaccines to decrease the risk of vaccine-preventable disease outbreaks as children across the United States return to daycare, preschool and school and before the flu season begins.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also recently expanded hepatitis A vaccination recommendations to include all children aged 12-23 months, as well as all children and adolescents aged 2-18 years who have not previously received hepatitis A vaccine. As a reminder, all newborns are recommended to receive the hepatitis B vaccine within the first 24 hours of birth, followed by timely completion of the series.
These recommendations are critical to preventing hepatitis A and hepatitis B. Hepatitis A infection can cause mild illnesses to conditions that require hospitalization. If infants and children become infected with hepatitis B there is a greater chance of developing chronic liver disease, resulting in cirrhosis, liver cancer, and even premature death. Both hepatitis A and B vaccines are safe and effective at preventing these diseases. Getting children vaccinated also protects others, providing community immunity. It’s an important reason for everyone in the family to get vaccinated — to keep households and communities healthy.
As a mother, I understand parents’ concerns. But as an epidemiologist, I also understand the risks of not getting vaccinated. Vaccines are safe and effective. We cannot let down our guard when it comes to protecting our children and families. This is the time to get your child caught up on all of their routine immunizations. Talk with your healthcare provider today, as I did, and make sure your children receive all of their recommended vaccines, and if not, make a plan to catch them up to get them ahead.
- Vaccine.gov’s Catch-Up to Get Ahead Toolkit, which provides messages and graphics to help spread awareness about catching up on childhood immunizations during the pandemic
- CDC guidance on Routine Vaccination during the COVID-19 Outbreak
- More information on National Immunization Awareness Month
- The latest CDC Immunization Schedule
- Clinical resources on vaccines, including continuing education training on best practices
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