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Give It Your Best Shot – Find Out What Immunizations You Need

You may think it’s only for kids, but it’s for adults too. Immunizations are necessary for young and old. Whether you are traveling abroad this summer, or getting your school-age child or college-age child ready for school, it’s important to keep track of which immu- nizations you and your loved ones need. Getting vaccines on time helps prevent illness before you’re exposed.

Give It Your Best Shot

Kid’s Health

Making sure that children of all ages receive their vaccinations on time is one of the most important things parents can do to ensure their children’s long-term health–as well as the health of friends, classmates, and others in the community, says David V. Alcid, chief of Infectious Diseases and director of Travel Medicine at Saint Peter’s University Hospital.

Administering vaccines has eliminated many highly contagious diseases, but when they do strike, vaccines are a patient’s greatest defense. In recent years, cases of whooping cough, also called pertussis, have been on the rise. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported more than 20,000 cases of the once dormant and sometimes fatal disease through 2012 when statistics were last compiled.

During the first several years of life, prior to beginning school, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children be immunized against 14 diseases that can be serious and life threatening, such as whooping cough.

Older Children and Adults

Although not required for school attendance, the HPV vaccine, which helps protect against the risk of certain can- cers, is recommended during the preteen years. This vaccine protects against the human papilloma- virus (HPV), which causes most cases of cervical and anal cancers, as well as genital warts. When your child is a little older and ready for college, vaccines are often recommended. The meningococcal conjugate vaccine protects against bacterial meningitis and is required by many colleges and universities.

The flu vaccine is recommended for all children six months and older. This vaccine, created every year from the strain predicted to be the most common during flu season, is an example of an immunization recommended throughout a patient’s life. Older children and adults, particularly those who are vulnerable due to a chronic illness or a compromised immune system, should get the flu vaccine annually.

Other vaccines lose their effectiveness over time. The whooping cough vaccine is one of them. Doctors recom- mend that teens and adults receive a booster shot that is called Tdap, which is a follow- up to the DTaP vaccination given to children younger than the age of seven.

“When it comes to vaccinations, you have to think like Benjamin Franklin who said, ‘An ounce of prevention equals a pound of cure,’” explains Dr. Alcid.

Travel

Just like your passport, some vaccines are required for travel outside of the United States. Some countries, for example, require that you be protected against malaria, yellow fever, and Japanese encephalitis. Healthcare providers in a travel medicine program, such as the one at Saint Peter’s, as well as infectious diseases special- ists, can help you to sort out which vaccines are needed, as well as provide consul- tations and treatment of travel-related infections. You can input your destination site on the travel section of the website for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and receive information about vaccines to discuss with your doctor.

“Protecting yourself against disease is a lifelong commitment,” explains Dr. Alcid. “Make sure you have all the vaccinations you need.”

Immunizations such as Tdap are available at The Saint Peter’s Urgent Care Center in Skillman, 609-497-4597. Please call 732-745-8600, x6008, or visit our Infectious Diseases page for more information.