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Don’t Forget the Other Vaccines

Our primary care doctors in Delray Beach will continue to strongly recommend that all of our patients be vaccinated against the coronavirus.

In addition, this upcoming flu season threatens to be more severe because our immunity has waned over the last year. So we also want to make sure everyone receives a flu shot this year.

While so much attention is focused on these vaccines, we want to remind you that there are other, equally necessary vaccines. Especially if you are over age 50, these vaccines can keep you from contracting a host of debilitating illnesses.

The flu problem

First, though, we want to reiterate the importance of the flu vaccine, especially now.

Thanks to all the precautions taken last year to help contain the coronavirus—social distancing, hand washing, masking—cases of the flu plunged. And deaths for the 2019-2020 season were down an estimated 95 percent from a typical year.

Unfortunately, this might not bode well for the 2021-22 flu season.

“As with COVID, when somebody recovers from a seasonal influenza infection, they retain some level of immunity that protects them against future infection, at least for a short period of time,” epidemiologist Lauren Ancel Meyers, director of the University of Texas COVID-19 Modeling Consortium, told CNBC.

“Since our COVID mitigation measures prevented influenza transmission last year, there are not a whole lot of people who were recently infected,” she explained. “So we may be entering flu season with a higher level of susceptibility than usual, which could exacerbate the risks.”

Thus we may be looking at a dual epidemic, with both the flu and COVID-19 simultaneously straining healthcare resources. Experts are still unsure how the flu season will play out. But, if it’s as severe as some are warning it might be, people could be sickened and dying from both viruses at the same time.

Flu season usually runs from October through March. Therefore, please receive your flu shot as soon as possible.

Other vaccines

Now for the rest.

Vaccinations recommended for teens and adults of all ages, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), are:

  • The Tdap shot (tetanus, diphtheria, and whooping cough [pertussis]) is recommended once for everyone. Pregnant women need a Tdap shot during every pregnancy.
  • You should also receive a Td shot every ten years. This protects you from tetanus and diphtheria, as the effectiveness of these vaccines can wane over time.
  • If you were born in 1957 or later, you should also receive the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine. Doctors assume you’ve been exposed to these diseases and remain immune for life if you were born before this date.
  • If you were born in 1980 or later, you should receive two doses of the varicella (VAR) vaccine. This protects against chickenpox.

As we get older, the strength of the immune system begins to decline. So those over age 50 should also receive these vaccinations:

  • Pneumonia kills one out of every 20 older adults who get it, so those over 64 need a pneumonia vaccine. Actually, two vaccines spaced one year apart. It’s especially important for those with chronic conditions. This could include lung conditions, heart disease, or those who smoke.
  • The Shingrix vaccine is 97 percent effective at preventing shingles. Shingles is an excruciatingly painful disease that can last for months or years.
  • If you travel outside the United States, you should also receive the hepatitis A vaccine, to protect against this highly transmissible liver disease.
  • Those who travel outside the country, are on kidney dialysis, have HIV, or are at risk of coming into contact with the bodily fluids of others (such as in nursing or emergency medical response occupations) should also receive a hepatitis B vaccine.

Where can I get my other vaccines?

Although many may fear they can’t afford all these shots, or that their insurance won’t cover them, HHS says: “Under the Affordable Care Act, most private insurance plans must cover recommended shots for adults.

If you don’t have insurance, you still may be able to get free shots. To find free or low-cost immunization sites near you, check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) website. 

“Think about how well we’ve done getting COVID vaccine awareness into everyone’s lives,” Jeffrey Goad, vice president of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases and professor and chair of the Department of Pharmacy Practice at Chapman University School of Pharmacy, told The Washington Post.

“If we could bring that same energy in common messaging to other vaccines, we could prevent a tremendous amount of illness, hospitalization, and death.”

Be sure to check with us if you’re unsure about which vaccines you may need to help you stay healthy.

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