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It’s National Immunization Awareness Month. Are your shots up to date?

It’s National Immunization Awareness Month. Are your shots up to date?

August is National Immunization Awareness Month, making it a great time to check if your entire family is current on vaccines. The awareness month was established to highlight the importance of vaccination for people of all ages. You may think about vaccines as something kids receive, but, we need vaccinations at different points in life to stay protected against serious diseases.

Wondering why immunization is so important? Our East Jefferson General Hospital team is filling you in on the details below.

Vaccines are for everyone

You could probably say that vaccines are one of the most impactful inventions in the history of the world. After all, they teach the immune system to help fight off infection. Before vaccines were in widespread use, millions of people died of illnesses not considered a threat today.

The effects of new vaccinations can sometimes be seen almost immediately. Take the polio vaccine, for example. Polio is a highly contagious virus that plagued the world for centuries, often causing paralysis or even death. That was the case until the first polio vaccine was created in the early 1950s. By 1961, the annual cases of polio dropped from tens of thousands to fewer than 200.

Vaccinations are commonly associated with childhood because we receive many vaccine doses as children. There’s a good reason for that—vaccines are most effective and impactful when they’re received before the body is exposed to specific viruses.

Along with those routine childhood immunizations, though, we also need vaccines later in life. The immunity provided by certain vaccines wanes over time, so booster shots are recommended to give immunity a renewed boost.

In addition to those booster shots, adults also need vaccination against certain diseases that pose a bigger risk to older adults, such as shingles and pneumonia. The shingles vaccine prevents shingles, an incredibly painful condition caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. Adults 50 and older need two doses of this vaccine. They also need a single dose of a pneumonia vaccine starting at age 65.

There are some vaccines that should be received by nearly everyone on an annual basis, including the flu vaccine. Flu vaccines are reformulated each year to protect against the strains of the influenza virus predicted to be most common during that season, making an annual dose essential.

The COVID-19 vaccine is also likely to be recommended on an annual basis, allowing researchers to regularly reformulate the vaccine to protect against the latest strains of the coronavirus responsible for the infection.

Along with what we’ve outlined above, you may need other vaccines based on your specific health needs and life situations, including whether you are traveling out of the country. When recommending vaccines, your healthcare provider will take a careful look at vaccination charts and other information provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, along with your medical records.

New vaccinations are on the horizon, either in the works or newly introduced. Older adults can now receive an RSV vaccine after it was granted approval earlier this year. This new vaccine, which protects against respiratory syncytial virus, is recommended as a single dose for adults ages 60 and older. Researchers are also studying RSV vaccines designed for young children, another group at high risk of serious illness and complications caused by RSV.

In the end, getting the vaccines you need is important for multiple reasons. Vaccination protects your own health, but it also protects public health, since widespread vaccination boosts the immunity of the entire community.

When you think about it that way, it makes a little shot worth it, right?

Schedule an appointment with East Jefferson Primary and Family Care for all your family’s primary care needs, including vaccinations.