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August is National Immunization Awareness Month

August is National Immunization Awareness Month and the perfect time to make sure your immunizations and those of your loved ones are up-to-date, says Archana Chatterjee, M.D., pediatric infectious disease specialist for Creighton Medical Associates and chief of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Disease for Creighton University School of Medicine.

When one talks about vaccinations, we often think of children. In the first two years of life, infants get approximately 24 vaccinations. Certain vaccinations are also required to attend school.

Yet, immunizations are needed throughout one’s life. For adults, Chatterjee recommends a periodic tetanus shot, an annual influenza vaccination, and one-time shots to protect against shingles around age 60 and against pneumonia around age 65. She noted that the Federal Food and Drug Administration in 2011 approved the expanded usage of Merck's shingles prevention vaccine Zostavax in people as young as 50; before that 60 was the earliest age one could get that vaccine.

The good news is that the United States has a robust vaccination program that has virtually eradicated such diseases as diphtheria, chicken pox, polio and more in this country, she said. The downside is that many Americans tend to downplay the importance of immunizations, mistakenly believing these diseases have actually disappeared, Chatterjee noted.

In fact, with a highly vaccinated population, adolescents and adults who are unvaccinated remain at risk for childhood diseases such as chicken pox, and their cases can be much more severe. Parents who are reluctant to vaccinate their children need to be aware of this risk, she said.