Immunizations are a vital piece to children's safety and protection at school.

Immunizations (also called vaccines or shots) help protect individuals from serious diseases. They can prevent infectious diseases such as measles, diphtheria and rubella.

People in the U.S. still die from these and other vaccine-preventable diseases. It's extremely important to know which shots your child and you need and when to get them.

This is why August is recognized as National Immunization Awareness Month. This is the time to encourage family, friends and co-workers to protect their health by getting caught up on their shots.

Most immunizations work best when they are given at certain ages. Below are some general guidelines:

Young children

Children under age 6 get a series of immunizations that protect against a variety of diseases such as measles, pneumonia, polio, chicken pox and hepatitis.

For a complete list of all of the recommended vaccines for children under age 6, visit your health care provider.

Preteens/Teens

All 11- and 12-year-olds need immunizations to help protect against tetanus, diphtheria, whooping cough and meningitis.

Doctors recommend girls and boys get the HPV vaccine to protect against HPV-related diseases.

Adults

Adults also need immunizations to help protect from serious diseases and illness.

Everyone older than age 6 months old needs a seasonal flu shot every year.

In additional to the flu shot, adults need to be aware of other recommended immunizations.

A one-dose shingles vaccine is recommended for adults age 60 and older. Adults should get a tetanus shot every 10 years. Adults also should talk to their health provider about the pneumonia or pneumococcal vaccine.

Pneumonia is still a major cause of illness and death in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it is estimated that pneumonia caused 43,500 cases and 5,000 deaths among persons of all ages in 2009.

Adults age 19 to 64 with certain medical conditions, those that smoke cigarettes or adults with asthma should get the vaccine.

Adults 65 years and older should get the one-time shot. Research shows that these groups of adults are at a higher risk of getting pneumonia.

Immunizations apply to all individuals -- from infants to seniors. When people remain timely with their shots, it not only protects the individual and family, it also protects the community as a whole.

Talk to your doctor or nurse to find out which immunizations you need.

Editor's note: The author is an Army public health nurse with the U.S. Army Public Health Command.

Page last updated Thu August 9th, 2012 at 00:00