An overview for patients about the importance immunization.
Why is immunization so important? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that for children born between the years of 1994 and 2013, “…vaccination will prevent an estimated 322 million illnesses, 21 million hospitalizations and 732,000 deaths over the course of their lifetimes.”
When children are in school, it is a natural time to think about our family’s health – and one way to do that is to ensure that we’re all vaccinated!
When we vaccinate our babies and children, we are providing protection against 14 diseases before the age of two. When children do not receive the recommended vaccines, they are at a much higher risk of getting these diseases and becoming seriously ill.
Vaccines not only protect the child, they also protect those who are too young to be vaccinated themselves. Though newborns receive some vaccines when they are born, others are administered in a stepwise fashion as they get older, meaning that they build immunity with each vaccination. If they are exposed to a disease that they have not yet been immunized, they may become seriously ill.
The full childhood vaccination schedule, as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, can be found here.
As children get older, they receive four additional vaccines –
- Yearly flu vaccine
- Tdap (protects against tetanus, diphtheria, and whooping cough)
- HPV (human papilloma virus) vaccine protects against cancers caused by HPV
- Meningococcal vaccine
It is easy to think that, as adults, we get off scot-free. Not quite the case, my friends! Most of the vaccines that we require are “boosters” – meaning that we get a “boost” of vaccines that we received as children or earlier in life. However, we may also receive additional vaccines based on our current health status and even based on travel plans.
The Adult Vaccine Assessment Tool is a great way to estimate what your needs may be. You can take this information to your healthcare provider to determine if you need to get caught up on your vaccines.
There are very specific guidelines for vaccination during pregnancy; in general, pregnant women should receive influenza vaccines so as to prevent the flu. Pregnant women who contract the flu increases the risk for serious complications, especially preterm labor and delivery.
Senior citizens may think that they do not need vaccines as they’ve had plenty during childhood and young adulthood. However, they likely need several to stay healthy. For example, most senior citizens require a pneumococcal vaccine.
Though we don’t yet have a vaccination for COVID-19, we can still protect ourselves against the flu. Influenza, which affects the respiratory tract, makes many people sick each year – and many people do not get a flu shot.
A flu shot is the best protection against the flu. Why? Because a team of researchers work hard each year to predict what strain is likely to be prevalent that year. They create a vaccine that will work hard to provide some level of immunity against that strain or strains. According to the CDC, “Flu vaccines are updated as needed each season to keep up with changing viruses. Also, immunity wanes over a year so annual vaccination is needed to ensure the best possible protection against flu. A flu vaccine protects against the flu viruses that research indicates will be most common during the upcoming season.”
What else can you do to prevent the flu – especially if you have other chronic health conditions, such as asthma?
- Limit contact with sick people.
- Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer.
- Cover coughs and sneezes.
- Avoid touching the hands to the nose, eyes, and mouth.
- Clean hard surfaces frequently, such as countertops and desks.
- If you do have the flu, stay home for 24 hours after the fever is gone and take antiviral medications as prescribed.
As of today, we do not have a COVID-19 vaccine.
That doesn’t mean that there isn’t a race to the finish line. Drug companies and researchers are sprinting – likely trying to win for various reasons.
Who does this RN believe?
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases; he states, “The way the pace of the enrollment is going on and the level of the infections that are going on in the United States, it is likely that we’ll get an answer by the end of the year… It is conceivable that we would get an answer before that.”
Though many drug companies are attempting to fast-track their research, Dr. Fauci cautions against doing so – “I would not be satisfied until a vaccine was proven to be safe and effective, before it was actually approved for general use.”
As of this writing, companies that are currently working towards a COVID-19 vaccine include –
- AstraZeneca in combination with Oxford University
- BioNTech SE and Pfizer
- Johnson & Johnson
- Merck & Co
- Moderna & Sanofi
CDC Says “Take 3” Actions to Fight Flu. (2019). CDC. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/prevent/preventing.htm
Fottrell, Q. (2020, August 30). Fauci says it’s ‘conceivable’ we’ll know if a safe and effective vaccine is coming by November. MarketWatch. https://www.marketwatch.com/story/as-covid-19-cases-hit-25-million-dr-fauci-says-its-conceivable-well-know-if-theres-a-safe-vaccine-by-november-2020-08-30
It’s National Immunization Awareness Month! (n.d.). District Health Department #10. Retrieved August 31, 2020, from https://www.dhd10.org/public-health-matters/national-immunization-awareness-month/