August: National Immunization Awareness Month

According to the CDC, “Flu vaccination should begin soon after vaccine becomes available, if possible by October. However, as long as flu viruses are circulating, vaccination should continue to be offered throughout the flu season, even in January or later. While seasonal influenza outbreaks can happen as early as October, during most seasons influenza activity peaks in January or later. Since it takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body that protect against influenza virus infection, it is best that people get vaccinated so they are protected before influenza begins spreading in their community.”

Flu vaccine is produced by private manufacturers, and the timing of availability depends on when production is completed. Shipments began in August and will continue throughout October and November until all vaccine is distributed.

RELATED: The Flu Shot—Questions from a Skeptic

Vaccines Protecting Against Tetanus, Diphtheria, Pertussis

Tetanus is a rare but severe infection that can be acquired following injury when a wound is contaminated, such as when someone steps on a rusty nail. It causes painful muscle spasms, including spasms of the muscles of the jaw (“lockjaw”).  Diphtheria is a very rare infection of the throat. Pertussis, or “whooping cough,” is a highly contagious disease that can cause a persistent cough in adults, but can be fatal in infants. All three of these illnesses can be prevented by vaccination.

Every woman should receive the dT (diphtheria, tetanus) vaccine every 10 years and a dTP (diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis) vaccine should be given once for adults under 65 years of age who have not received dTP previously. By vaccinating caregivers (mothers, grandmothers) of infants with the dTP vaccine, infants can be protected. Anyone who develops a wound from a cut or a scrape of the skin should get a tetanus shot if he or she has not had one in the past 10 years. Common and frequent side effects of the vaccine includes tenderness, pain, redness, and swelling at the site of injection that can last for a few days.


Varicella is the cause of chickenpox. Most women in the United States have already had chickenpox and are therefore immune, so they cannot get chickenpox again. For the few women who have not had chickenpox, the varicella vaccine, which is administered as two doses given four to eight weeks apart, can provide immunity. Women who work with children (such as teachers) and women who are healthcare workers should receive the vaccine if they are not immune. For women who are not sure if they have had chickenpox, a simple blood test can determine whether or not they are immune.  It is important to immunize women who are at risk of this disease, because chickenpox is a much more severe illness in adults than in children, particularly in women who are pregnant. The vaccine is made from a live but weakened virus, so it should not be given to pregnant women (it should be given before they get pregnant) or women who have a weakened immune system. A common side effect is a rash, which can resemble chickenpox that can occur at the site of injection or elsewhere.

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  • Andrea August 9, 2016 at 8:56 am

    Thanks Dr Kendler for a very informative article. It’s also important to have anyone who works/lives in your home ( nannies housekeepers) given the influenza vaccine as well.