Officials urge public to get vaccinated

COVINGTON - August is National Immunization Awareness Month and health officials are urging the public to make sure it is up-to-date.

"As Georgians prepare for the upcoming influenza season and our youth return to school and college, it is imperative that residents protect themselves, their families and their communities by following the recommended immunization schedules for children and adults," said Michelle Conner, public health division program director for infectious disease and immunizations with the Georgia Department of Community Health.

Because children are more vulnerable to infection, most vaccines are given during the first five to six years of life. Children under age 5 are especially susceptible to disease because their immune systems have not built up the necessary defenses to fight infection, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. By immunizing children on schedule, usually by age 2, parents can protect their children from disease and protect others at school and day care.

The CDC recommends keeping track of a child's vaccinations by making sure his or her health records are current. A shot record should be started when the child receives his or her first vaccination and updated with each vaccination.

Some immunizations are recommended during adolescent and adult years, and some are recommended specifically for travelers visiting outside the United States.

The Georgia Department of Community Health encourages all Georgians to contact their health care provider or local health department to make sure immunizations are up-to-date.

"Vaccines are safe and offer effective protection from infectious diseases, which is especially important as we face the imminent threat of a pandemic," Conner said. The department is preparing to address seasonal and novel influenza A virus, also known as swine flu.

Vaccines may cause side effects such as a slight fever, rash or soreness at the site of injection. Health care providers can provide more information about potential side effects and the risks versus benefits of vaccinations.

Immunization schedules are available on the CDC Web site at www.cdc.gov/vaccines/recs/schedules/default.htm. For more information, call the CDC at 1-800-232-4636.

Crystal Tatum can be reached at crystal.tatum@newtoncitizen.com.