All the media coverage about the COVID-19 vaccinations is likely bringing your regularly scheduled shots to mind. But with so many children in virtual school and adults working from home, are you on track or late with your vaccines? Have you received your flu shot? And finally, what should you know now about the COVID-19 vaccination?
Formerly rare diseases like measles, mumps, and whooping cough are making local comebacks, according to Dan Frogel, MD, Summit Health Chief Medical Officer. To make it worse, adds Manuela Hamaoui, MD, an internist with Summit Health, COVID-19 anxiety means that patients have neglected their wellness office visits and, as a result, their vaccination schedules have suffered.
Following your vaccine schedule is important, Dr. Frogel says, because "vaccines are parts of series that need to get completed in a sequence of time, and if you delay scheduled doses you may have to start over." These include the following (with recommended ages for the series of doses):
- Diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (5-dose series at 2, 4, 6, 15–18 months, 4–6 years)
- Hepatitis B (3-dose series at birth, 1–2, 6–18 months)
- Hepatitis A (2-dose series with minimum interval of 6 months beginning at 12 months)
- Human papillomavirus (Age 9-14 years: 2-dose series at 0, 6–12 months; Age 15 years or older: 3-dose series at 0, 1–2 months, 6 months)
- Measles, mumps, rubella (2-dose series at 12–15 months, 4–6 years)
- Meningococcal (2-dose series at 11–12 years, 16 years)
- Poliovirus (4-dose series at ages 2, 4, 6–18 months, 4–6 years)
- Rotavirus (2-dose series at 2 and 4 months or 3-dose series at 2, 4 and 6 months)
- Varicella (2-dose series at 12–15 months, 4–6 years)
Dr. Frogel says patients forget that vaccinations such as tetanus need renewal every decade for whooping cough, and only think about them when they get a cut. And while the vaccines for shingles (for those aged 50+) and pneumonia (for those aged 65+) are not part of a series and recommended only for older or at-risk adults, they're especially important right now, as they can keep you out of an overburdened hospital system.
Though we're now in peak flu season, there's still time to get a flu shot. But while Dr. Frogel says that he performed a record number of vaccinations in early fall, Dr. Hamaoui says that she still encounters resistance. "People are arguing that, with all the precautions we're doing, we might not need it."
Though it's true that the Southern Hemisphere did see a milder flu season, Dr. Hamaoui emphasizes that flu can do more than cause body aches. "Even 30 days after symptoms, we have seen increased heart attacks and strokes, fatigue, and fever." Any of these more serious symptoms can land you in an overextended urgent care center or emergency room.
The United States has begun a prioritized rollout of two approved COVID-19 vaccines. In order to effectively move toward population-level control of spread of the virus, a majority of the population will need to get vaccinated. The good news is the vaccines have been shown to be more than 90% effective in reducing the risk of symptomatic COVID-19. Dr. Hamaoui says, “With some people questioning the safety of the vaccine, my most important role right now is to focus on vaccination education and mitigating spread through adherence to ongoing safety protocols. As a group, we strongly encourage all eligible patients to get the vaccine when it becomes available to them." Visit our website for regular updates and useful information about the vaccine. If you still have questions or concerns after you review the information, please speak to your doctor.
Although the COVID-19 vaccine will soon be available to the public, people must not lose sight of necessary childhood vaccines that may have been missed due to the pandemic. Routine immunization, proper management of chronic conditions, and preventive health care are extremely important.