National Immunization Awareness Month

Pat Polise, RN.M.Ed., Nurse Consultant for LewerMark | 8-20-2019

Every year, preventable diseases strike thousands of people in the U.S., including international students. National Immunization Awareness Month is a campaign held each August to highlight the importance of vaccinations and how they can prevent certain, often highly contagious diseases.

For international students, receiving certain immunizations should be an utmost priority. Viruses and bacteria exist in almost all environments, and some of them are extremely contagious and travel quickly. Having the proper vaccination before a college term begins can prevent or significantly reduce the effects of serious illness.

College students who live and socialize in dorms, cafeterias, and large classrooms are at high risk of certain contagious viruses and bacterial agents. Each state and college will have different entry requirements that serve as minimum immunization standards. As a student, you’ll need to have your immunization records checked to see if you’ll need additional vaccines before school begins. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend the following three vaccines for traditional-aged college students.

 

Meningitis vaccine

Outbreaks of meningitis, a severe, life-threatening bacterial infection, have occurred on campuses throughout the country. Meningitis causes acute inflammation and swelling around the brain and spinal cord triggering symptoms such as headaches, fever, seizures, sensitivity to light, and stiff necks. The disease releases toxins in the blood that reduces the flow of oxygen to major organs and limbs.

According to the CDC, between January 2013 to May 2018, 10 university outbreaks occurred in seven states resulting in 39 cases with two deaths. All of these cases were a result of unvaccinated students, except for one who, tragically, received the vaccination only a few days before being infected.

A Meningitis vaccine covers different strains of the disease. Because of the increased infection risk on campus, many colleges require proof of vaccination, and many states have mandated the immunization. The Immunization Action Coalition provides state-specific information.

 

Tdap and Td vaccine booster

Tdap protects against pertussis (commonly known as whooping cough), tetanus and diphtheria. Many children routinely receive one dose of the Tdap vaccine around age 11 or 12; however, if not administered previously, college-bound international students should receive the vaccine. A Td vaccine booster is recommended every 10 years to offer continued protection against tetanus and diphtheria.

 

Influenza

Influenza, or the flu, can cause a normally healthy international college student to be stricken with high fever, headaches, muscle aches, and coughing. You can contract the flu any time but, in the United States, the highest occurrences happen during “flu season,” which begins in the fall and ends at the start of spring. Catching the flu may affect students academically forcing them to miss extended class time.

The seasonal flu vaccine, which usually becomes available each year in September, can protect students from catching the flu, or may result in a milder case. College students should be able to get the vaccine in the campus health center or at a local pharmacy.

As an international student, immunization awareness is the first step of protecting yourself from a very unwelcomed ailment. National Immunization Awareness Month is the perfect time to ask which vaccinations you need to receive.

The most important thing for all students, including internationals, is to be protected as much as possible against illnesses that have vaccinations. Academic success is much easier if you are in good health! Every state and every school are different. Check with your student health center or international office to see what your school’s requirements are. LewerMark covers a number of immunizations for our schools that offer a wellness benefit.