National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM) is an annual observance held in August to highlight the importance of vaccination for people of all ages, and communities throughout Connecticut are responding with local initiatives aimed at increasing public awareness and understanding. NIAM was established to encourage people of all ages to make sure they are up to date on the vaccines recommended for them. Communities nationwide – including in Connecticut - have continued to use the month each year to raise awareness about the important role vaccines play in preventing serious, sometimes deadly, diseases.
NPHIC, in collaboration with CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, developed information focusing on various age populations, including Babies and young children (July 31-August 6); Pregnant women (August 7-13); Adults (August 14-20); Preteen/Teen (August 21-27); Back to School (July/August).
Among the Connecticut communities participating through the end of the month are Bridgeport, Danbury, Hartford, Naugatuck Valley, New Britain, New Haven, Norwalk, Stamford, Torrington, Waterbury and West Haven. In West Haven on Thursday, for example, there will be an information table at the West Haven Farmer’s Market. That same day in New Haven, immunization coordinators will be on hand at the New Haven Health Department offices. Other communities have been utilizing social media, meeting with parents and students to assist with immunization information at the start of the school year, providing explanatory materials and making health department staff available for public information sessions.
The Connecticut Department of Public Health (DPH) explains that most vaccine-preventable diseases are caused by germs that are called viruses or bacteria. Vaccines to help prevent these diseases generally contain weakened or killed viruses or bacteria specific to the disease. Vaccines help your body recognize and fight these germs and protect you each time you come in contact with someone who is sick with any of these diseases.
There are a series of steps that your body goes through to develop immunity through vaccination, the DPH website explains:
- a vaccine is given by a shot (influenza vaccine may be given by a nasal spray and rotavirus vaccine is given by mouth).
- over the next few weeks your body makes antibodies and memory cells against the weakened or dead germs in the vaccine.
- the antibodies can fight the real disease germs if you are exposed to the germs and they invade your body. The antibodies will help destroy the germs and you will not become ill.
- antibodies and memory cells stay on guard in your body for years after vaccination to safeguard you from the real disease germs.
The Connecticut Vaccine Program is Connecticut’s childhood vaccination program. It ensures all children in the state get the vaccinations they need, when they need them, to stay healthy. The state buys vaccine at the lowest possible price through a government contract, and gives the vaccines at no cost to clinics, private doctors, and other health care providers. These providers then vaccinate children without charging patients for the cost of the vaccine (health care providers may still charge an administration fee). Without this program, some insurance companies may not cover the full cost of vaccine, making it too expensive for some families. There are hundreds of health care providers enrolled in the Connecticut Vaccine Program (CVP) throughout the state, according to the department.
Most vaccines are given to babies and young children, DPH points out, but “some are needed throughout your lifetime to make sure you stay protected. This protection is called immunity. Vaccines are an important and safe way to keep you healthy.”