The COVID-19 pandemic has given us an education on the importance of vaccines. We know vaccines are safe and effective when it comes to preventing disease and saving lives. August is National Immunization Awareness Month and National Wellness Month and a perfect time to review vaccines for everyone, especially older adults. Vaccines, and keeping your vaccination record up to date, is crucial in maintaining your health and the life you want to live.
It’s important to know that some people can’t get vaccines due to their age or certain health conditions. Babies, very young children, and people with weakened immune systems can be more vulnerable to infectious diseases. By protecting yourself, you help protect them.
Being sidelined with a disease that could have been prevented by a vaccine can be costly in terms of missed time at work, medical bills, and precious missed time spent with friends and family.
There are times when adults may hesitate to decide to vaccinate themselves, while others may worry about side effects. If you’re worried about vaccines, remember that the FDA sets a high bar to clear before a vaccine can be approved in the United States, and they must be shown to be safe before they can be used. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, vaccines go through years of testing before being approved by the FDA. The CDC and FDA then both track the safety of all vaccines. If for some reason you should experience side effects, they are usually mild, not lasting more than a few days. The most common side effect is injection site soreness. Severe side effects are extremely rare.
It is a good idea to talk with your doctor about the importance of vaccines, especially for someone who might be hesitant about getting vaccinated.
Vaccinations aren’t just for kids, however, the effectiveness of vaccines can wane over time. According to the CDC, some vaccines need to be administered once a year, and some are recommended for different age groups.
Make sure you’re up to date on the following vaccine. A few of the most common vaccines for Americans are:
- Annual influenza (flu) vaccine. This is recommended every year and is especially important for people with chronic health issues and older adults.
- Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis) vaccine. All adults should get this once, and a booster every 10 years.
- Shingles vaccine. This is recommended for adults over 50.
- Pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine. This shot is recommended for adults over 65 and adults under 65 with certain health issues. This vaccine protects against meningitis and bloodstream infections.
- Hepatitis B vaccine. This is recommended for adults ages 19-60 and adults over 60 who have risk factors for hepatitis B infection.
Medicare and most insurance plans cover vaccines to prevent illness.
The CDC estimates that flu-related hospitalizations have ranged from 140,000 to 710,000 a year since 2010, with deaths ranging from 12,000 to 56,000. Additionally, about 320,000 people get pneumococcal pneumonia each year, causing more than 150,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths.
Such diseases, misery and costs can be prevented by having a sound vaccine plan with your trusted primary care doctor. Take the time to talk to your doctor, nurse, or healthcare provider to ensure you and your family are protected against serious diseases by getting caught up on routine vaccinations.
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