National Immunization Awareness Month: Why Vaccines are So Important
August 02, 2021
August is National Immunization Awareness Month and a good time to talk about vaccines and why they are so important not just now but throughout history. Vaccines are something most of us don't think about regularly and often take for granted. Since Edward Jenner created the first vaccine in 1796 they have become of vital importance to our health care system. Widespread use of the smallpox vaccine helped wipe out the disease in 1980. Other diseases, such as polio and diphtheria, have been eliminated in many parts of the world because of vaccinations.
The reason so many of us are now talking about vaccines is due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Not long after the pandemic began, many were asking, "When will there be a vaccine?" Though masking and physical distancing help protect us to an extent, those measures alone cannot get us back to our previous level of social interaction. As COVID-19 vaccines rolled out across the U.S. and throughout the world we have seen people able to return to work, school and social gatherings with family and friends.
Denver Public Health’s Travel and Immunization Clinic is helping to play a large role in delivering COVID-19 vaccines to Denver's communities. The Clinic was one of the first sites to administer vaccinations to any person eligible under the state health department’s tiered system, regardless as to whether they were an established patient at Denver Health. In our first two months, we administered 2,166 COVID-19 vaccines with 98 percent of patients getting fully vaccinated.
Our team was very well prepared to take our efforts into the communities with higher need for COVID-19 vaccination in partnership with the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment and strong established relationships with community leaders and partners in areas that had high COVID-19 positive rates. Our teams held community outreaches at over 100 unique locations and have reached nearly 8,000 clients to date.
While the strategic planning for vaccinating during a pandemic added new concerns, such as safety for patients and staff that involved masking, physical distancing and vaccinating outdoors whenever possible, provision of vaccinations in the communities was not new to Denver Public Health. Over the past 10 years Denver Public Health's Immunization Program has worked with Denver Public Schools to vaccinate children throughout the year to get students up to date on their routine vaccines. This has been done by sending a clinical team into schools during the day with support from Denver Public Schools. This allowed children to minimally miss class time and avoided children needing to leave the building for a doctor's appointment thus helping parents who were unable to take time off work to get their children vaccinated. This coming school year will be even more important to get children and teens up to date on vaccinations as many have fallen behind on their routine vaccination series and the opportunity to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Due to the pandemic, there were several barriers related to patients accessing clinical services due to the stay-at-home orders, fears of going out in public, restrictions in accessing face-to-face clinic appointments and children not able to attend school. This resulted in vaccine rates dropping nearly 60 percent compared to last year which leaves our communities vulnerable to vaccine preventable diseases. Many diseases that we vaccinate for routinely in children are just as or more contagious than COVID-19. For example, measles is approximately six times more contagious than COVID-19 and similarly spread from person to person meaning that with improvement in measles vaccination, we can avoid an outbreak.
Denver Public Health's Travel and Immunization Clinic also provides travel consultations for anyone who may be traveling abroad, whether to visit family, do volunteer work or just have a fun vacation. This service provides people with in-depth information on how to keep you and your family safe and healthy in foreign countries at competitive prices. We can provide vaccinations for illnesses such as Yellow Fever, that are often not provided at many other vaccination sites, as well as travel medications to protect against malaria and traveler’s diarrhea.
While vaccinology has seen significant advancements since that first vaccine in 1796, the benefits have stayed consistent. Vaccines allow us to live healthy, long lives free of preventable diseases. We hope to see you and your family at Denver Public Health's Immunization and Travel Clinic on the second floor of the new Outpatient Medical Center. Call 303-602-3520 to schedule your appointment today.