JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas –
Safe and effective vaccines have been responsible for the virtual eradication of diseases such as polio - not only in the United States, but throughout the world.
The importance of regularly scheduled vaccinations to prevent the return of diseases that were once common but are rarely seen today is emphasized each August during National Immunization Awareness Month. The 359th Medical Group at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph calls attention to the observance with an information table in the family health waiting area.
"Childhood vaccines are important because they prevent infectious diseases like measles, polio, mumps and whooping cough as well as diseases of early adulthood such as human papillomavirus, or HPV," Lt. Col. (Dr.) Yi Yang, 359th Medical Operations Squadron director of immunizations, said.
Vaccines are not only effective, they have also proven to be safe, according to health officials. They undergo years of testing before they are licensed for public use and are closely monitored through the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, which is co-sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration.
However, Yang said patients who are allergic to certain foods, medications or insect bites, for example, should inform immunization clinic staff members about their allergies before they receive a vaccine.
"All the patients are required to fill out a lengthy questionnaire at the clinic prior to receiving any vaccines," he said.
The clinic also takes extra precautions once a vaccine has been administered, Senior Airman Alisha Slone, 359th MDG Immunization Clinic technician, said.
"We have patients wait for 15 minutes after every shot they get," she said.
It is recommended that children in the first 18 months of their lives be given initial doses of the vaccines for tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis, or Tdap; polio, mumps, measles and rubella; and chickenpox; booster doses should be administered when children are between 4 and 6 years old. Eleven- and 12-year-olds should receive vaccines for Tdap and meningococcal disease. Yearly flu shots are recommended starting at the age of 6 months.
Many parents wait until August - when the clinic is busiest - to have their school-age children immunized, but it's better to follow their health care providers' recommendation of bringing them to the clinic at the time of their birthdays, Slone said.
Adults should also remain current with their immunizations, including vaccines for influenza; Tdap; zoster, or shingles; and pneumonia.
"Adults should get a tetanus booster every 10 years, a flu shot every year, a shingles vaccine after age 60 and a pneumonia vaccine after age 65," Slone said.
Vaccines for human papilloma virus, the most common sexually transmitted virus in the United States, are recommended for members of both sexes between the ages of 11 and 26 years old. The vaccines offer the best protection to girls and boys who receive all three doses, which are administered over six months.
"The HPV vaccine prevents cervical cancer for females," Yang said. "For males, the vaccine reduces the chance of cervical cancer for future sexual partners."
Immunization clinic hours are 7:30 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. Monday-Thursday and 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday. Smallpox vaccines are administered at 3 p.m. Friday and 4:15 p.m. other weekdays, but patients who require the vaccine must first call for an appointment to complete compulsory paperwork.
For more information, call 652-1938.