Let’s give it a shot!

By Chief Sam DiGiovanna

Did you know August is National immunization Month? Does your community know? Let’s give it a shot and get the word out to them!

Health authorities and vaccine developers are currently partnering to support the technology needed to produce a Covid-19 vaccine. With hope they can find something soon! But we still have other vaccinations to deal with and August is National Immunization Month.

Wouldn't it be nice if you could immune yourself from traffic? Rude or obnoxious people? The complainers in your organization? Wouldn't it be nice if we could "vaccinate" ourselves against specific things or people? Unfortunately, these toxic people and situations are the association dues we must pay for being alive.

Although vaccinating ourselves against the less-pleasant people in life is beyond the realm of modern medical science, what our current vaccines can do is still pretty powerful. Aggressive education and vaccination led to the eradication of the deadly disease smallpox. In 2000, the U.S. declared that measles was eliminated from this country "elimination" is defined as absence of continuous disease transmission for more than 12 months), although we still experience some cases brought by unvaccinated travelers.

But here's the thing about vaccination success: It can lead to complacency. Recently, we've seen outbreaks of measles and whooping cough, and many experts believe that these spikes are caused by parents refusing to vaccinate their children. When this happens it can threaten the health of the unvaccinated child and other children in the community.

That's why we can't let our guard down, and why the Center for Disease Control recognizes August as National Immunization Month.

Why not start a campaign in your community to raise awareness about the importance of vaccines? Remember, infants and the elderly are at greater risk for serious infections and complications, but vaccine-preventable diseases can strike anyone. The National Foundation for Infectious Diseases reports that approximately 50,000 adults die each year from vaccine-preventable diseases in the U.S.

Reach out to the schools in your community to ensure children are up to date on vaccines as they head back to school. School-age children, from preschoolers to college students, need vaccines. Shots may hurt a little, but the diseases they can prevent are a lot worse. Also, include information about other vulnerable groups in your outreach. Those older than 60 should receive the shingles vaccine. Those older than 65, as well as those with certain medical conditions, should get the pneumonia (PCV13) vaccine. And everyone who is healthy enough should receive an annual flu vaccine!

And don't forget about yourself. In addition to any of the above vaccines, first responders should have the hepatitis B virus (HBV) vaccine. In fact, your department's communicable diseases policy (you do have a communicable diseases policy, right?) should indicate that it will be provided at no cost to members.

Finally, remember that hand-washing is like a "do-it-yourself" vaccine. It involves five simple and effective steps — wet, lather, scrub, rinse, dry — to keep you healthy (let’s not forget about our masks). Regular hand-washing, particularly before and after certain calls or activities, is one of the best ways to remove germs, avoid getting sick and prevent the spread of germs to others.

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Sam DiGiovanna is a 35-year fire service veteran. He started with the Los Angeles County Fire Department, served as Fire Chief at the Monrovia Fire Department and currently serves as Chief at the Verdugo Fire Academy in Glendale. He also is VP of Fire Operations for www.Cordico.com