In recognition of August as National Immunization Awareness Month, the New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH) is encouraging everyone, especially children heading back to school, to stay up to date on all vaccinations, including their COVID-19 vaccines.
Governor Murphy last week proclaimed August as Immunization Awareness Month, noting that "vaccination is proven to be one of the most successful public health interventions by preventing countless cases of disease and disability and saving millions of lives."
"Staying up to date on vaccinations can protect children and adults from vaccine-preventable diseases," said Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli.
"In addition, the COVID-19 vaccine is now available to everyone six months and older, offering protections against serious illness to our younger residents. I urge all parents to speak with their pediatrician or healthcare provider if they have any questions and get their children up to date on all vaccines, including the COVID-19 vaccine."
According to the NJDOH, child and adolescent vaccines protect against 16 serious diseases, including: influenza, diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough (pertussis), polio, measles, mumps, rubella, Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), hepatitis A and B, rotavirus, chickenpox (varicella), human papillomavirus (HPV), and meningococcal and pneumococcal disease.
They also help reduce the spread of disease to others in classrooms, child care centers, and communities.
According to the NJDOH, everyone six months and older is recommended to receive a yearly flu vaccine, which can result in reduced flu illnesses, fewer doctor visits, and fewer flu-related hospitalizations.
All individuals six months and older are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine to help prevent against serious illnesses and other severe consequences.
Flu and other vaccinations can be given at the same time as COVID-19 vaccines. COVID-19 boosters are also available for everyone ages five and older, while a second booster dose is available for adults ages 50 and older or individuals ages 12 and older who are moderately or severely immunocompromised (have a weakened immune system) to provide further protection against the virus.
Visit covid19.nj.gov/finder to find the nearest vaccination site.
NJDOH encourages all pediatricians to review their patients' vaccination status and contact those behind schedule to ensure that all children are up to date, especially before the start of the new school year.
Adults also may need vaccines to protect against whooping cough, pneumonia and shingles; other vaccines may be recommended based on age, health condition, job, or lifestyle.
Vaccination is especially important for those with chronic health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and asthma.
Those planning to become pregnant should check with their doctor to ensure they have received all recommended vaccines.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends all pregnant women receive the flu vaccine at any time during pregnancy, and the whooping cough vaccine (Tdap) early in their third trimester, during each pregnancy.
Vaccinating women against these diseases, including COVID-19, is a safe and effective way to help protect both mother and child.
Vaccines are frequently available at doctor's offices, as well as pharmacies, workplaces, community health clinics and health departments.
Recommended immunizations are covered by most health insurance plans. Parents who need help paying for vaccines should ask their child's healthcare provider about the Vaccines for Children program, which provides no-cost or low-cost vaccines to children who are Medicaid-eligible, uninsured, underinsured, or American Indian/Alaska Native.
Adults who are uninsured or do not have insurance for certain vaccines should contact their local health department or federally qualified health center to see if they qualify for no- or low-cost vaccines through the 317-funded program.
New Jersey Hot Shots for Tots
NJDOH also announced this year's awardees of the New Jersey Hot Shots for Tots Immunization Campaign, which is a voluntary, point-based incentive program for child care and preschool facilities.
Participating facilities conduct immunization-related activities to earn points toward reaching one of the three award levels: Gold, Silver, or Bronze.
Each awardee receives a certificate from NJDOH to acknowledge their work on this important issue.
Immunization-related activities can include providing information to parents about childhood immunizations and teaching children about proper hand washing and disease prevention, etc.
The 2021-22 Hot Shots for Tots Immunization Campaign awardees are:
- Hackensack Meridian Early Childhood Education Center, Neptune
- Cambridge Park Preschool, Aberdeen
- Holmdel Preschool, Holmdel
- Kiddie Academy of Eatontown
- Gibson's Kidstown Childcare, Port Elizabeth
- Bright Tomorrows, Flemington
- NORWESCAP Head Start, Ringoes
- NORWESCAP Early Head Start, Flemington
- Noah's Ark Preschool, Highland Park
- Early Childhood Learning Center, Freehold
- Mont-Vail Day Care Center, Irvington
- Over the Rainbow CDC, Bordentown
- First Baptist Church, Red Bank
- United Methodist Church, Red Bank
- Monmouth Day Care Center, Red Bank
- Acelero Learning, Red Bank
- YMCA of Greater Monmouth, Shrewsbury
- Magic Garden School & Early Learning Center, Wharton
- First Steps Learning Center, Sewell
- St. Paul's Centenary UMC Day Care, Newark
- New United Neighbors, Newark
More information about vaccines and the recommended immunization schedules for all age groups can be found on the CDC website at https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/index.html.