The nation has just finished taking note of National Immunization Awareness Month in August, when we at TIP along with other advocacy organizations across the country tried to provide the public with useful information about the ways in which vaccination helps everyone: pregnant women, babies, preschoolers, teenagers and adults into their senior years.
Now we’re already in the midst of another month that observes the importance of immunization in different ways. It’s Sexual Health Awareness Month, which should always include recognition of our marvelous ability to prevent cervical cancer and other types of cancer with the HPV vaccine. The vaccine protects against several strains of human papillomavirus.
It’s also National Preparedness Month, and the public should be informed, especially after the flood disaster that struck parts of Texas last year, how important it is to be vaccinated as part of our preparedness plans. Catastrophic situations stress people’s bodies and minds, making them more vulnerable to disease. Disasters also can mean stays in crowded evacuation centers, in close proximity with crowds of people who might have vaccine-preventable diseases.
In fact, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention keeps a list of all the national health observances meant to raise public awareness and educate people about important issues that affect their physical and mental well-being. Some of those days, weeks and months are even recognized around the world; others, not on the list, have been adopted by individual states or even cities.
What’s easy to notice if you take a look through that list is how many of the observances are connected in some way to the amazing job that vaccines accomplish in protecting our health. Barely a month goes by without one, and some months, two events that should remind us of the ways in which vaccines protect so many of us, from before we’re born to our senior years. And we’re not even counting things like the various observances of heart health, even though the flu vaccine helps protect our hearts.
Here, then, is the list of all the additional observances, which offer the opportunity to show our thanks to the scientists who developed protective vaccines by getting ourselves immunized.
National Cervical Health Awareness Month – all of January. Recent studies have shown tremendous effectiveness of the HPV vaccine, which protects people from strains of the virus that cause cervical cancer.
World Cancer Day -- Feb. 4. Another opportunity to remember how the HPV vaccine can prevent cervical cancer as well as cancers of the mouth, throat, penis and anus. Let’s not forget the hepatitis B vaccine, which prevents liver cancer that can be caused by the disease.
Oral Cancer Awareness Month -- all of February. While taking note of World Cancer Day, it’s especially worth noting that 70 percent of oropharyngeal cancer cases are caused by HPV, with more than 16,000 cases diagnosed in men and women each year.
National Public Health Week – Healthiest Nation 2030: Changing Our Future Together – Early April. The CDC has listed the development of vaccines as #1 among the top 10 public health achievements.
World Immunization Week – late April. Did you know that a worldwide measles vaccination campaign has saved more than 20 million lives since the year 2000?
World Meningitis Day -- late April. It’s vital for pre-adolescents to receive the vaccine against meningococcal disease, which moves swiftly and can kill or maim those who fall ill. A booster is needed at age 16, or at least before entering college.
Hepatitis Awareness Month – all of May. Outbreaks of hepatitis A have been cropping up in numerous states over the past year or so and killing some of those who fall ill.
National Senior Health and Fitness Day ® – May 31. Shingles, which tends to strikes older people, can be a very painful disease that debilitates people for months, and the CDC recently recommended a new, more effective vaccine against it.
World Hepatitis Day – July 28. If you somehow missed our national month to combat the disease, here’s another chance.
U.S. Antibiotic Awareness Week -- mid-November. You’ve probably heard that our overuse of antibiotics is of concern to public health officials, especially given the number of antibiotic-resistant infections. But did you know that vaccines can help us cut down on the use of antibiotics?
National Influenza Vaccination Week -- early December. An annual awareness day is especially important for flu because this is the vaccine that almost all of us should have every single year – and if we haven’t gotten it by early December, it’s time to get cracking!
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