National Infant Immunization Week starts April 21, but infants are not the only ones who need to be immunized.
"We do a pretty good job of vaccinating our little ones because there are not a lot of barriers there," Clay County Public Health Director Colette Rossiter said. "Either insurance, Medicaid or another federally-funded program is available, but that does not exist for adults."
Rossiter noted that Clay County was ranked No. 1 in 2010 for the number of 2-year-olds who were fully and correctly vaccinated, but both the county and state have a long way to go to ensure that those children's parents, older siblings and others are vaccinated.
Expectant mothers, fathers, babysitters and others who will be in contact with newborns are strongly encouraged to get a Tetanus, Diptheria and Pertussis, or TDAP, vaccination. Parents are also reminded to keep their and their children's vaccinations up-to-date.
"I think it's a common theme that once their kid goes to kindergarten, they're done vaccinating," Rossiter said. "That's not true. Teens and adults need them, too."
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices makes annual recommendations, based on what they see in terms of vaccinating for preventable diseases.
Teenagers and adults alike often are not up-to-date on their TDAP vaccinations.
"What we're seeing with teens is the protection they had for those three diseases they got in kindergarten, by the time they get to their teen years, it's run off," Rossiter said. "We need them to get boosted around the age of 12. ... Once they get boosted as a preteen or a teen, it's (needed) every 10 years."
Pertussis, often called whooping cough, is a common illness that can easily be prevented. Clay County Public Health is doing their part by offering the vaccines for TDAP and meningitis to every seventh grader and high school senior every spring.
Human Papillomavirus vaccines are not offered in schools, but students are educated about them and advised to talk to their physicians. Chickenpox vaccination booster shots are also not given in schools, but are recommended for teenagers.
"We had to do a lot of convincing that the vaccine is safer than getting chickenpox," Rossiter said. "Our vaccination rates are pretty high. It won't spread through classrooms like it used to."
Individuals who have had chickenpox are also at risk for shingles, especially those older than 60.
"The shingles virus is chickenpox being reactivated," Rossiter explained. "If you had chickenpox, you're at risk for shingles. ... That virus lays dormant until your immune system is challenged. That happens with older people. One out of three adults over 60 will get shingles."
A painful, blistering rash results from the virus and pain can linger long after the rash vanishes. Even those who have already had shingles should get the vaccine to prevent another outbreak.
Everyone older than 65 is advised to receive the pneumonia vaccine, especially smokers and those with chronic medical conditions.
In addition to TDAP, shingles and pneumonia vaccines, adults are encouraged to get flu shots, as are children. Rossiter credits a high number of vaccinated individuals -- the county was ranked second for vaccinated adults -- for a relatively quiet flu season.
Rossiter's office regularly receives calls about what vaccinations to receive before traveling internationally.
Hepatitis A vaccines are recommended regardless of the international destination, and Hepatitis B shots are also common. Most vaccinations should be administered between four and six weeks before the trip, which many adults do not take into consideration.
For those curious about which vaccines are recommended for travel to specific countries, information is available in the "Travelers' Health" tab of www.cdc.org.