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Medical professionals recommend year-round immunizations

By Robert Goetz | Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph Public Affairs | Aug. 15, 2012

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas — August is National Immunization Awareness Month, the time of year when many parents rush their children to the doctor's office or clinic for their shots because of school requirements.

However, emphasizing the importance of a regular immunization schedule is part of the everyday mission of health care professionals at the Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph Medical Clinic.

"With back to school, every parent's first thought is to get their children's immunizations updated, but these aren't 'fall' immunizations," Capt. (Dr.) Cheryll Clark, 359th Medical Operations Squadron pediatrician, said. "Immunizations are recommended at certain intervals in a person's lifetime and are a routine part of a child's health care, so we promote immunization awareness year-round.

"It should be an everyday thing," she said. "We take the time to counsel all our patients on the importance of staying current with their immunizations."

Clark said immunizations play a vital role in health care.

"They're the reason we don't see children dying from measles or being paralyzed by polio as we did in the past," she said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, childhood vaccines also prevent diphtheria; hepatitis A and B; human papillomavirus, or HPV; mumps; pertussis, or whooping cough; rubella, or German measles; tetanus; and varicella, or chickenpox.

In the first 18 months of their lives, children should receive initial doses of the vaccines for tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis; polio; mumps, measles and rubella; and chickenpox. Booster doses of these vaccines are recommended between 4 and 6 years old. Recommended vaccines for 11- and 12-year-olds are for Tdap and meningococcal disease.

"We always encourage parents to take an active role in their child's health care by asking questions and keeping well informed, particularly in respect to immunizations," Clark said. "These vaccines are studied for years and continually monitored by the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration."

Another recommended vaccine is for HPV, the most common sexually transmitted virus in the United States, which is linked to genital warts and cervical cancer.

"It's a prevention measure that's recommended for both sexes between the ages of 11 and 26," Clark said.

Clark said adults should also remain current with their immunizations, including vaccines for influenza; Tdap; zoster, or shingles; and pneumonia.

With fall approaching, it's also time to start thinking about the flu vaccine, Clark said. This year's dose targets the H1N1, H3N2 and influenza B strains.

"We get most of our supply in the September-October timeframe," she said. "We never know how virulent flu will be, so it's important to get the flu vaccine every year."

Clark said non-active duty clinic beneficiaries have the opportunity to obtain their flu vaccine at a TRICARE-approved pharmacy at no additional cost.

"But patients should bring verification of all immunizations received at outside facilities to ensure their immunization record is current," she said.

Staff Sgt. Caroline Mejia, 359th MDOS immunizations clinic acting NCO in charge, concurred with Clark that parents should not wait until August to have their children immunized.

"Due to the back-to-school season, immunizations have increased tremendously," she said. "It causes patient wait time to increase, which can be an inconvenience to them, especially if they are limited in time."

However, she said parents can avoid the rush, especially at lunch time, by bringing their children to the clinic as early as possible.

The immunizations clinic's hours are 7:30 a.m.-4:15 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday and 8:30 a.m.-4:15 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday. Smallpox vaccinations are reserved for 3-4 p.m. Tuesday and Friday.

For more information, call 652-3279.