Even healthy young adults need vaccines

In recognition of National Immunization Awareness Month, the Michigan Department of Community Health is urging young adults to get vaccinated against serious diseases such as meningitis, whooping cough, human papillomavirus or HPV, and influenza to name a few.

Getting vaccinated is a simple step that can help keep young adults healthy before they head off to college or other training programs.

“Vaccines aren’t just for children,” said Dr. Matthew Davis, Chief Medical Executive at the Michigan Department of Community Health.

“Even healthy teens and young adults can benefit from vaccines that protect against serious, life-threatening diseases,” Dr. Davis said in a statement. “Living and studying in dorms and classrooms with lots of other people, and spending a lot of time at social or sports events make diseases easy to spread in college and university settings.”

College students have a unique risk due to lifestyle factors.

Busy academic, work, and social calendars can contribute to stress, lack of sleep, unhealthy eating habits, and not exercising regularly.

All of these factors can weaken the immune system, making young people more vulnerable to diseases during their college years.

Getting sick would add to this stress through missed classes, social functions, and work. Simply put, college students can’t afford to get sick.

College students, can, on the other hand, afford to get all of the recommended vaccines.

The Affordable Care Act allows parents to keep adult children on their health insurance policy until age 26, if the parents have insurance. Most insurance plans cover the cost of all recommended vaccines.

If your child is heading off to a college or a training program in the next few weeks, include a doctor’s visit on your “to do” list.

Additionally, the Florence County Health Department, and Wisconsin health officials are encouraging parents to make immunization appointments for their children before the school year starts.

“A healthy school year begins with children who are up-to-date on their immunizations,” said Dr. Henry Anderson, Wisconsin State Health Officer.

“Vaccines are among the safest and most cost-effective ways to prevent disease,” Dr. Anderson said. “They not only protect vaccinated kids, but they also help protect entire communities, including our elderly neighbors and relatives – who can be more vulnerable – by preventing and reducing the spread of infectious diseases.”

Families with health insurance will need to schedule these appointments with their health care provider.

State-supplied vaccines are available at local health departments through the Vaccines for Children (VFC) program for families whose children are not covered by insurance, are on Medical Assistance or are American Indian or Alaska Native.

Parents should contact their insurance company if they are uncertain whether their insurance covers vaccinations.

State requirements and recommendations apply to children in kindergarten through high school, and vary by grade. For students in kindergarten through grade 5 (elementary school), required vaccines include:

– DTaP/DT/Td, to prevent diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (also known as whooping cough).

– Polio vaccine.

– Measles, mumps and rubella vaccine (MMR).

– Hepatitis B vaccine.

– Varicella vaccine, to prevent chickenpox.

For middle and high school students, an additional dose of varicella vaccine and a dose of Tdap vaccine are required. Tdap vaccine protects adolescents and adults against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis.

Wisconsin teen vaccination rates for the varicella and Tdap vaccines are well above the national average, according to a recent National Immunization Survey. Also recommended for adolescents are the HPV vaccine, to help prevent various cancers, and the meningococcal conjugate vaccine, to prevent meningitis.