By: Kafi Rosenbaum
New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH) officials say that in anticipation of the new school year and ahead of the seasonal flu season, everyone is encouraged to stay current on all vaccinations, including the COVID-19 vaccine, in recognition of August as National Immunization Awareness Month.
Governor Murphy has also proclaimed August 2023 as Immunization Awareness Month, noting the importance of immunizations for protecting individuals and communities from vaccine-preventable diseases.
Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said, "Following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) recommended immunization schedule will provide optimal protection against vaccine-preventable diseases,"
She continued by saying, "The immunization schedule is designed to provide protection early in life before children are likely to be exposed to serious, potentially life-threatening diseases."
Child and adolescent vaccines protect against 17 serious diseases, including influenza, COVID-19, diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough (pertussis), polio, measles, mumps, rubella, Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), hepatitis A and B, rotavirus, chickenpox (varicella), human papillomavirus (HPV), meningococcal disease, and pneumococcal disease.
Vaccines also help reduce the spread of disease to others in classrooms, childcare centers, and communities.
Officials recommend that everyone ages six months and older should receive a yearly flu vaccine, which can result in reduced flu illnesses, fewer healthcare provider visits, and fewer flu-related hospitalizations.
NJDOH encourages all healthcare providers to review their patient's vaccination status and contact those behind schedule to ensure that all individuals are up to date, especially children, 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 essential for those with chronic health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and asthma.
Officials also recommend that those planning to become pregnant should check with their healthcare provider to ensure they have received all recommended vaccines.
The CDC recommends that, during each pregnancy, all pregnant women receive the flu vaccine at any time during pregnancy and receive the whooping cough vaccine (Tdap) early in their third trimester.
Vaccinating women against these diseases, including COVID-19, is a safe and effective way to help protect both mother and child.
All people aged six months and older are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine to help prevent serious illness and other severe outcomes.
Flu and other vaccinations can be given at the same time as the COVID-19 vaccine.
People with weakened immune systems may get at least one additional bivalent dose of the COVID-19 vaccine to provide further protection against the virus.
For more information and to find the nearest vaccination site, visit covid19.nj.gov.
Vaccines are frequently available at healthcare provider 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 childcare and preschool facilities.
Participating facilities conduct immunization-related activities to earn points toward typically 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 other disease prevention strategies.
The 2022-23 Hot Shots for Tots Immunization Campaign awardees, who this year are all Gold level, are:
- Bright Tomorrows Child Care Center, Flemington
- Cambridge Park Preschool, Aberdeen
- Early Childhood Learning Center, Freehold Township
- Gibson's Kidstown Childcare, Port Elizabeth
- Hackensack Meridian Early Childhood Education Center at Jersey Shore University Medical Center, Neptune
- Head Start Community Program of Morris County, Dover
- Holmdel Preschool, Holmdel
- Hopes Community Action Partnership, Inc., Somerset
- Monmouth Day Care Center, Inc., Red Bank
- Mont-Vail Day Care Center, Irvington
- Over the Rainbow Child Development Center, Bordentown
- Positive Place Preschool, Hawthorne
- Puerto Rican Community Center, Inc., Trenton
- Robert C. Grant Head Start Center of Morris County, Parsippany-Troy Hills
- St Paul's Centenary United Methodist Day Care, Newark
More information about vaccines and the recommended immunization schedules for all age groups can be found on the CDC website at cdc.gov/vaccines/index.html.