With children soon heading back to school and with the U.S. flu season knocking on the door, August is the perfect time to focus attention on National Immunization Awareness Month.
Because Covid-19 issues still linger and with the possibility of new variants, patients of all ages are encouraged to talk to their healthcare providers about getting the proper and timely vaccines that are available to protect themselves against preventable diseases.
The National Health Council provides some one-stop informational shopping about the latest guidelines and suggestions for Covid-19 vaccinations among all age groups, as well as flu vaccine suggestions.
Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) provides a resource link that discusses information on vaccines recommended during pregnancy, throughout childhood and into adulthood. The CDC’s Growing Up With Vaccines Interactive Guide offers patients and the public a medical blueprint of what vaccines should be taken and when.
For parents and child caregivers, the Florida Department of Health provides an extensive immunization requirement list for children of all ages, running the gamut from Family Day Care Center populations to both public and non/public school admission from Kindergarten through Grade 12.
And while much of this month’s attention is focused on Covid-19 variants and the back-to-school documentation of vaccines necessary for students to enroll, protections against the seasonal flu should not be overlooked as well.
GoodRxHealth reminds us that in the United States, the flu season usually runs from late September through May, usually peaking between December and March.
The CDC offers valuable information about which patient populations are more susceptible to the flu and/or developing serious health complications from the flu. Among populations that should especially discuss the flu vaccine with their medical providers are:
- Adults 65-years and older.
- Adults with chronic health conditions.
- Pregnant people.
- Young children.
- Those dealing with medical conditions that include asthma, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, HIV/Aids.
- Certain ethnic and racial groups including Non-Hispanic Black people, and Hispanic and Latino populations have historically had higher flu-related hospitalizations during a 10-year documented stretch from 2009-2019. The medical community is trying to boost flu vaccination rates among these populations and others to reduce flu hospitalizations among these groups—again, a reminder for those at increased risk, to discuss the benefits of flu vaccinations.
While there may be some reluctance by some members of the public to secure appropriate and timely vaccinations because of shifting guidelines dealing with Covid-19 over the past two-year period, medical professionals point out it is important for patients to separate truth and fact from myth and fiction. That can best be done with a frank discussion with your Family Medicine Practitioner or Primary Care Physician.
Dr. Ted Schuck, Chief Medical Officer with Brevard Health Alliance, encourages his patients to rely on the proven science of the benefits of vaccinations.
“Vaccinations have been around as early as the late 18th Century, with a vast number of vaccines developing well over 100 years. Vaccines have been no less than a miracle in terms of their effectiveness in preventing, reducing, and even eliminating communicable disease,” explains Schuck.
“For example, diseases such as smallpox and polio viruses were nearly eradicated in first-world nations. Other viruses such as measles and mumps were very rarely seen.”
Shuck understands that the Covid-19 Pandemic may have shaken the public’s faith in that medical tool.
“Vaccine myths and disinformation have unfortunately led to patients and parents opting out of receiving recommended routine vaccinations; subsequently increasing the rates of serious communicable diseases that the medical community has not seen over the past several decades,” he points out.
“In 2019 for example, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported a total of 1,282 measles cases in the U.S., the greatest number of cases reported in the country since 1992! The majority of these cases were found in individuals unvaccinated. During the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic, when hospitalization and mortality rates were critically high, the unvaccinated population mortality/hospitalization rate was determined to be exponentially higher than those who were vaccinated.”
Shucks adds there is a lengthy and rigorous process before vaccines are approved for human use.
“Before a vaccination is recommended by the CDC and approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), it must pass a series of rigorous tests and studies that can last for several years. Even after the vaccine is approved, it is still studied to ensure its safety. Additionally, companies that manufacture vaccines must test their product for quality and safety with every batch made.”
Schuck said it is also important for patients to dispel another myth about vaccines: that a patient can get the very virus they are being vaccinated against from the vaccine.
“Unless a vaccine is live attenuated, it is impossible to get a virus or illness from the vaccine.
“As an example, you can’t get “the flu” from the influenza vaccine.
“Patients may experience side effects, such as body aches and fevers from your body mounting an immune response to build strong antibodies against the virus. These side effects are often short-lived and much less detrimental than acquiring the actual virus itself. Serious adverse reactions can occur but are very rare.”
BHA’s Chief Medical Officer also notes that because Florida has a significant 65-year-old-plus population, it’s important for seniors to stay current on their vaccines.
“Seniors are most often those at highest risk for acquiring serious illness from communicable diseases,” said Schuck.
“Carrying diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and obesity may weaken your immune system and your body’s response to fight off infection. Vaccines to help prevent influenza, Covid-19, pneumonia, and shingles are already available for those meeting criteria. I would highly encourage patients to speak with their healthcare providers regarding their individual situations and which vaccines may be recommended for them.”