August is National Immunization Awareness Month

By Brandi N. Montreuil, Tulalip News

TULALIP -August marks a national health campaign to raise awareness on the importance of immunizations. All throughout this month health professionals along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases are reaching out to communities to educate and promote vaccines.

According to CDC the use of vaccinations could mean the difference between life and death. Some diseases have become rare or have been eradicated through vaccination use, such as smallpox. However the choice to vaccinate is still optional due to no vaccination law enacted by the federal government, other than the requirement in all 50 states that children receive certain vaccinations before entering public schools. Children are required by most states to receive diphtheria, pertussis, polio, measles, mumps, rubella and tetanus vaccines before entering public school, however, medical exemptions can be given if the child has had an adverse reaction to a prior vaccine or is allergic to a vaccine component

During the August awareness campaign the CDC is seeking to decrease the number of people opting out of vaccination by reaching out to communities through education outreach.

“Vaccines have reduced many diseases to very low levels in the United States. For example, we no longer see polio, a virus that causes paralysis, in our country. Not only do vaccines help the patient, they also protect people who come in contact with the patient. Infants and the elderly have decreased immune systems. Being vaccinated helps protect these populations,” said Dr. Jason McKerry with the Tulalip Karen I. Fryberg Health Clinic on the Tulalip Indian Reservation.

This year, Washington State was among 17 other states that experienced a high percentage of measles cases, a first in 20 years. As of July 30, 585 confirmed cases of measles have been reported throughout the nation, 27 of them in Washington. Similarly, cases involving pertussis, or whooping cough, have been on the rise. As of July 26, Washington State Department of Health reported 219 cases of whooping cough, 6 of those reported in Snohomish County, while Grant, King and Pierce Counties each reported 30 or more.

Through the use of vaccinations the risk of infection is reduced. Vaccinations, explains the CDC website, work “with the body’s natural defenses to help it safely develop immunity to disease.” This means vaccinations aid the development of immunity through imitating infection so when the body does encounter the disease, the body will recognize it and fight the infection with antibodies it has created.

“Serious infections like pneumonia, bacteremia, a bacteria infection that gets in the blood and spreads to the whole body, and meningitis, an infection of the fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord, can occur with lack of vaccinations. Most of these diseases can be treated with medicine, if caught early enough, but serious negative outcomes can occur if the infection spreads rapidly. These include brain damage, hearing loss, chronic lung disease and even death. It is best to be safe and vaccinate early, before you have a chance to contract a life-threatening disease,” said Dr. McKerry about the risks associated with not vaccinating.

Vaccinations can be administered at private doctor offices, public community health clinics and community locations, such as schools and pharmacies for a reduced price, however most insurance plans do provide coverage cost for vaccinations.

“I always encourage a patient to obtain vaccines from a primary care provider who knows them best and can offer the most current advice on vaccines,” Dr. McKerry said, who went onto to explain that children should be vaccinated before the age of two. “Your child should be vaccinated against hepatitis A and B, rotavirus, a virus that causes severe vomiting and diarrhea. Diptheria, tetanus and whooping cough, haemophilus influenza B, a virus that causes pneumonia and ear infections, among other infections, pneumococcus, a bacteria that causes pneumonia and ear infections, among other infections, and polio, measles, mumps and rubella (MMR), varicella (chicken pox) and a yearly flu vaccine.”

For more information about immunizations or immunization schedules, please visit the website Or please contact the Tulalip Karen I. Fryberg Health Clinic at 360-716-4511.


Brandi N. Montreuil: 360-913-5402;