Tag Archives: vaccine

The value of immunizations for infants can’t be overstated

Immunizations save lives. There is no denying it: Vaccines have drastically reduced infant death and disability caused by preventable diseases.

Just consider some of the milestones shared by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

  • Through immunization, we can now protect infants and children from 14 vaccine-preventable diseases before age 2.
  • In the 1950s, nearly every child developed measles and, unfortunately, some even died from this serious disease. Many physicians today have never seen a case of the measles.
  • Among children born during 1994-2013, vaccination will prevent an estimated 322 million illnesses, 21 million hospitalizations and 732,000 deaths over the course of their lifetimes. It also saves about $13.5 billion in direct costs.
  • The National Immunization Survey has consistently shown that childhood immunization rates for vaccines routinely recommended for children remain at or near record levels.

The importance of immunizations

Immunizations play a valuable role in protecting the health of not only our children, but families and communities. They not only help protect vaccinated individuals, but also help protect entire communities by preventing and reducing the spread of infectious diseases.

The success of vaccines in preventing disease can’t be overstated. Each year we pause to observe National Infant Immunization Week, which this year runs from April 22-29.  It is a time to highlight the importance of protecting infants from vaccine-preventable diseases and to celebrate the achievements of immunization programs in promoting healthy communities throughout the United States.  It is also a time to raise awareness about the importance of ensuring all children are fully protected from vaccine-preventable diseases through immunization.

Vaccine-preventable diseases still circulate in the United States and around the world, so continued vaccination is necessary to protect everyone from potential outbreaks. For example, measles is still common in many parts of the world, including some countries in Europe, Asia, the Pacific and Africa, and travelers with measles continue to bring the disease into the United States. It’s easy for measles to spread when it reaches communities in the United States — or anywhere else — where groups of people are unvaccinated.

The best way to protect against childhood diseases

Remember, giving babies the recommended immunizations by age 2 is the best way to protect them from serious diseases, like whooping cough and measles.  Talk to your health care provider about what vaccines are recommended for your child, and make sure you keep all immunization and well-child appointments.  For more information about how to protect your child with immunizations, visit http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/parents/protecting-children/index.html.

Make getting vaccinations less stressful

Even though you know you are keeping her safe from diseases, it’s hard to see your child cry when she gets her shots. But you can take some steps to make the process less stressful.

The CDC suggests trying the following tips before, during and after shots:

For babies and younger children

  • Distract and comfort your child by cuddling, singing or talking softly.
  • Smile and make eye contact with your child. Let your child know that everything is OK.
  • Comfort your child with a favorite toy or book. A blanket that smells familiar will help your child feel more comfortable.
  • Hold your child firmly on your lap, whenever possible.

For older children and adolescents

  • Take deep breaths with your child to help “blow out” the pain.
  • Point out interesting things in the room to help create distractions.
  • Tell or read stories. Be sure to pack their favorite book!
  • Support your child if he or she cries. Never scold a child for not “being brave.”

CDC’s ‘Take 3 Actions’ Flu Message

If you haven’t gotten a flu vaccine this season, it’s not too late. Getting vaccinated annually is the No. 1 way to combat this contagious disease that can lead to hospitalization — and even death. Symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends taking three actions to protect against the flu:

1) Take time to get a flu vaccine.

DHEC and the CDC recommends that everyone 6 months and older get a flu vaccine, which can reduce flu illnesses, doctors’ visits, and missed work and school due to flu.

It is especially important for high-risk persons to be vaccinated to reduce the risk of severe illness. People at high risk of serious flu complications include young children, pregnant women, people with certain chronic health conditions like asthma, diabetes or heart and lung disease and people 65 years and older.

Vaccination also is important for health care workers and those who live with or care for high-risk people to keep from spreading flu to them.

2) Take everyday preventive actions to stop the spread of germs.

  • Avoid close contact with sick people.
  • If you are sick, limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.
  • If you are sick with flu symptoms, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs such as the flu.

3) Take flu antiviral drugs if your doctor prescribes them.

If you get the flu, antiviral drugs can be used to treat your illness. Antiviral drugs can make illness milder and shorten the time you are sick. These drugs are different from antibiotics; they are prescription medicines (pills, liquid or an inhaled powder) and are not available over-the-counter.

Visit CDC’s website to find out more about the flu and the three actions it recommends to fight it.

Those working with older people or the chronically ill should get a flu shot

The flu is a serious health threat to vulnerable populations such as people 65 and older and those living with chronic medical conditions. People in those groups account for the majority of flu hospitalizations and deaths in the United States each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

People living with and caring for high-risk persons should take every precaution to protect themselves and those they are caring for during influenza season. Vaccination is the most effective way to prevent the flu, and DHEC and the CDC recommends that everyone 6 months and older get vaccinated annually.

Health care workers are recommended, and sometimes required by an employer, to be vaccinated against the flu. The reason is quite simple: Staff in doctors’ offices, hospitals and long-term care facilities have direct or indirect contact with patients.  Health care staff are at risk not only of becoming infected with influenza at work, but also of spreading it to patients and their coworkers.

Vaccination of long-term health care staff is especially important because most of their patients are elderly or have chronic health issues and are at higher risk of flu complications.  Residents and staff in long-term care facilities often have regular close contact.  According to the CDC, studies show that during a confirmed influenza outbreak in a long-term care facility, up to one in three residents and one in four staff develop an influenza-like illness. Click here for more information on why it is important for health care personnel in long-term care to be vaccinated against the flu.

Visit the CDC’s website to see how to improve vaccination coverage among long-term health care personnel. Visitors at the website also can access an influenza toolkit for long-term care employers.

It’s not too late to get your flu vaccine!  Even if you don’t have a regular health care provider the flu vaccine is available in many settings. In addition to DHEC clinics, many local providers — including doctors’ offices, clinics, pharmacies, college health centers, schools and workplaces — now offer flu vaccines. DHEC encourages everyone to find the facility that works best for them.

Handwashing: The ‘do-it-yourself vaccine’

With all the visiting that occurs during the holiday season, germs can quickly and easily pass from person to person. When it comes to protecting yourself and others and putting a stop to the spread of germs, don’t underestimate the power of handwashing.

On its website, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention refers to handwashing as a “do-it-yourself vaccine.” Regular handwashing, particularly before and after certain activities, is one of the best ways to remove germs, avoid getting sick and keep from spreading germs to others.

Many diseases and conditions are spread by not washing hands with soap and clean, running water. If clean, running water is not accessible, use soap and available water. If soap and water are unavailable, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol to clean your hands.

So, when should you wash your hands? Here’s what the CDC says:

  • Before, during and after preparing food
  • Before eating food
  • Before and after caring for someone who is sick
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound
  • After using the toilet
  • After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
  • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
  • After touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste
  • After handling pet food or pet treats
  • After touching garbage

Visit the CDC’s website for more information on handwashing. Also, view the video below for instructions on how to effectively wash your hands.

National Influenza Vaccination Week

By Linda Bell, M.D.
Director, DHEC Bureau of Disease Control and State Epidemiologist

With the holiday season upon us, please include staying healthy among all the other plans you make for this time of year.  We are already two months into flu season; if you haven’t already done so: Get vaccinated against the flu.

This week is National Influenza Vaccination Week, a timely reminder that your annual flu vaccine is the single best way to protect yourselves and your loved ones from the flu this holiday season — and throughout the year. Catching the flu during the holidays could be more than just an inconvenience; illness with the flu can be life-threatening.  Each flu season is unique; the timing of the peak activity and how severe a season will be are hard to predict making it very important to protect yourself against flu as early as possible.

The Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention and DHEC recommend that everyone six months of age and older get a yearly flu vaccine. Even if you don’t have a regular health care provider the flu vaccine is available in many settings. In addition to DHEC clinics, many local providers — including doctors’ offices, clinics, pharmacies, college health centers, schools and workplaces — now offer flu vaccines. DHEC encourages everyone to find the facility that works best for them.

Why get the vaccine?

  • The flu vaccine gives your body the ability to protect itself against the flu because you cannot predict when you might be exposed to someone who is ill.
  • Flu vaccines are very effective in protecting against several different strains of the flu that circulate each season when well matched to circulating flu strains.
  • While good hand washing practices are always recommended, they only provide temporary protection. Flu vaccines offer lasting protection against the flu for at least six to eight months.
  • The flu vaccine is the only protection shown to reduce hospitalization and deaths caused by the flu.

In addition to receiving an annual flu vaccine, South Carolinians are encouraged to take the following preventive measures:

  • Stay away from people who are sick.
  • Stay home from work and school, as well as refrain from errands, if you are sick to help keep others from getting sick too.
  • Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze. Use a tissue if one is handy. Throw it away immediately after use. Otherwise, use the crook of your elbow to keep germs off of your hands and surfaces that you touch.
  • Wash your hands often and thoroughly to prevent the flu and many other diseases.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs easily enter the body and cause infection when someone touches something that is covered with germs and then touches their eyes, nose or mouth.

Please consider other habits to stay healthy year round, including getting plenty of exercise and sleep, managing your stress, drinking water and eating nutritious foods.

Visit DHEC’s website for more information about the flu and to find a clinic near you www.scdhec.gov/flu.