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Guest Column

Keeping immunizations up to date is essential

By Lilyan "Vee" Dayton
Published August 11, 2006

Here it is August, the month that the National Partnership for Immunization usually designates as National Immunization Awareness Month.

School has started, and students, teachers and parents should be aware that immunizations either need to be updated, or begun, in some cases.

The Centers for Disease Control Web site,, has information and recommendations on all vaccines.

Your physician and health department also are reservoirs of this knowledge. Tallahassee's Bureau of Immunization's mission is to promote and protect the health of all children and adults in Florida. This is done through the reduction and eventual elimination of vaccine-preventable diseases through immunization.

The Pasco County Health Department offers free required vaccinations to all schoolage children, as do all health departments in Florida and across the country.

In fact, our health department offers vaccinations of all types. Seniors can receive their flu, pneumonia and tetanus shots, either at the clinics or in their civic or homeowner's association clubhouses. We offer these shots to residents of mobile home parks, retirement centers and churches in their meeting places.

During the fall flu season, which extends into the following June, a team of two public health nurses go to the facilities mentioned and to health fairs across our county.

Our successful outreach program is beginning its seventh year reaching from Holiday in the south to Dade City and Zephyrhills in the east, and Hudson on our northernmost border.

Those who have Medicare or Medicare with a supplement pay no fee. If seniors have an HMO there is a small charge that is reimbursable by their HMO.

The National Partnership for Immunization and the CDC are working to increase immunization awareness among parents, children and seniors. It behooves each of us to keep ourselves free of vaccine-preventable diseases.

The new emergence of problems with pertussis (whooping cough) has prompted the scientific community to look at the possibility of adding pertussis to all tetanus shots. Recommendations are forthcoming regarding its inclusion.

Always be aware that vaccines are tested and monitored for safety and efficacy. They are licensed by the Food and Drug Administration, which requires they be tested for both.

This process can take 10 years or longer. Once the vaccine is in use, the CDC and FDA monitor its side effects through the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System.

Any hint of a problem with a vaccine prompts further investigations by the CDC and FDA.

If researchers find a vaccine might be causing a side effect, the CDC and FDA will initiate actions appropriate to the nature of the problem, ultimately, in some cases, withdrawing recommendations for use of the vaccine or revoking the vaccine's license.

Local physicians and the health department are available to meet the public's need for immunizations. Let's make 2006-2007 a banner time for continued prevention of childhood diseases and for prevention of flu, pneumonia and tetanus in seniors.

Check with the health department for childhood vaccination needs and for flu shots in the coming season.

It's all part of a stay healthy, stay happy attitude for all Pasco County residents.

Lilyan "Vee" Dayton is a senior community health nurse at the Pasco County Health Department.

[Last modified August 11, 2006, 06:48:13]

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