August is National Immunization Awareness Month, which is held to observe the importance and need for education about vaccines. Diseases and viruses still occur, which is why it is paramount to be vaccinated against these factors that can resurge due to unvaccinated people encountering them. Vaccines can “protect individuals from specific pathogens, help boost the body's immune system, prevent infection, and reduce disease severity,” says Paula Cuccaro, PhD, assistant professor of health promotion and behavioral sciences at UTHealth School of Public Health. Vaccines are carefully studied and recommended by our medical professionals who spend years studying the benefits and any adverse effects.
Recent conversations surrounding vaccines have created a prevalent issue within public health, with medical professionals battling against misinformation. Those administering vaccines should address hesitancies some may have by holding “respectful conversations...address any misinformation; share the benefits of vaccines, curate honest information, and rebuild the trust that has been lost in science and public health,” stated Cuccaro.
Vaccines have changed life expectancy and allowed people to fight common diseases that once ravaged communities. Modern medicine and education have influenced the continuance of human innovation, where we can protect ourselves and others by being vaccinated. Yet, we have begun to see the issue of unvaccinated populations spreading diseases once thought to be eradicated.
Polio, once declared eliminated from the U.S. in 1979, has had a resurgence in a New York County during the summer of 2022. “The recent infection in NY state was in an unvaccinated individual in a county with a low vaccination rate (only 60%) Polio is controlled with an immunization rate of about 80%. NY state overall has a vaccination rate of about 79%.” quoted Cuccaro. These instances occur when the population is not vaccinated, which then begins to spread and put those who have encountered this person at risk of disease, disabilities, and death.
As we approach the beginning of flu season, which begins in September and ends in May, it is especially important to get the recommended doses. “The more pathogens that we can protect ourselves against with vaccines, the better equipped our bodies will be to fight off anything that can’t be prevented with vaccines,” said Cuccaro. Year-round we are at-risk of illness, but with the increase of COVID-19 and Monkeypox cases we should ensure our bodies are at peak health by taking recommended vaccines.
UTHealth Houston is currently offering the complete COVID-19 vaccine series, additional doses, and booster doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. UTHealth Houston vaccinations and background information can be found here.