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Mid Coast Center for Community Health & Wellness Newsletter
August 2019
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National Immunization Awareness Month

Vaccinations and Immunizations

Photo credit: Heather Hazzan, SELF Magazine.

August is National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM), which is recognized each year in an effort to highlight the importance of vaccinations. Vaccinations enable people of all ages to develop immunity or protection from some diseases that are dangerous or potentially deadly.

Although most people know what vaccines are, not everyone understands how they work. Vaccines contain dead or weakened germs that stimulate our immune systems to react as if the germs were a full illness. Once exposed to a specific illness's germs, our bodies remember how to fight them off, and we become immune to that illness.

There are different types of vaccines, including:

  • Attenuated (weakened): Live viruses are used in some vaccines, known as attenuated vaccines. One example of an attenuated vaccine is the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine.
  • Killed (inactivated): An inactivated vaccine, or killed vaccine, uses viruses or bacteria that were grown in a culture and have lost their ability to produce disease. One example is the inactivated polio vaccine, also known as IPV.
  • Toxoid: Toxoid vaccines contain a toxin or poison that has been made harmless, but stimulates an immune response in the body. For example, the diphtheria and tetanus vaccines are toxoid vaccines.
  • Conjugate: A conjugate vaccine contains parts of bacteria combined with proteins. The Hib vaccine, which protects against a bacteria that can cause illnesses such as meningitis, is an example of a conjugate vaccine.


The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends a schedule of vaccines for children. The AAP also recommends combining vaccinations whenever possible to reduce the number of shots children receive.

Some parents may have questions or worries related to vaccinations, including having a serious reaction or getting the disease the vaccine is designed to protect against. In reality, vaccines are unlikely to cause a serious illness, and immunizations are one of the most important means of protection against contagious disease.

Adults may not realize that vaccines are needed throughout life, not just in childhood. Similar to children’s vaccines, adult vaccinations need to be kept up-to-date, in part, because childhood vaccines can wear off. Additionally, adults are at risk for different diseases due to age, health level, their job, and other factors.

Adults Ages 19-26

In addition to seasonal flu (influenza) vaccine and Td or Tdap vaccine (Tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis), adults between the ages of 19 and 26 should also get the HPV vaccine, which protects against the types of human papillomaviruses (HPV) that cause most cervical, anal, and other cancers, as well as genital warts. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends:

  • HPV vaccination for all preteens at age 11 or 12 years (can be given starting at age 9).
  • HPV vaccination for everyone through age 26, if not vaccinated already.

HPV vaccination is not recommended for anyone older than age 26. However, some adults age 27 through 45 who are not already vaccinated may decide to get the HPV vaccine after speaking with their doctor about their risk for new HPV infections and the possible benefits of vaccination. HPV vaccination in this age range provides less benefits than receiving it at a younger age, as more people have already been exposed to HPV by age 27.

Adults 50 or Older

Almost 1 out of every 3 people in the United States will develop shingles in their lifetime. Your risk of shingles increases as you age. Additionally, over 60 percent of seasonal flu-related hospitalizations occur in people 65 years and older.

As we get older, our immune systems tend to weaken over time, putting us at higher risk for certain diseases. This is why, in addition to seasonal flu (influenza) vaccine and Td or Tdap vaccine (tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis), adults ages 50 and older should also get:

  • Shingles vaccine, which protects against shingles and the complications from the disease (recommended for healthy adults 50 years and older)
  • Pneumococcal vaccines, which protect against pneumococcal disease, including infections in the lungs and bloodstream (recommended for all adults over 65 years old, and for adults younger than 65 who have certain chronic health conditions)

Adults with Health Conditions

All adults need a seasonal flu (influenza) vaccine and Td or Tdap vaccine (Tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis) but there may be additional vaccines recommended for you. Learn more about which vaccines you may need if you have any of these conditions:

  • Liver disease
  • Lung disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease or stroke
  • Weakened immune system
  • HIV
  • Asplenia (no spleen)

Remember to talk with your physician or other healthcare professional to find out which vaccines are recommended for you at your next medical appointment, and be sure to keep track of your vaccines.

For more information about which vaccines are recommended for adults, use this guide from the Centers for Disease Control.

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