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Support Good Health with Flu Shots and by Ensuring Vaccinations are Current

October 15, 2020

By Shannon Scott, D.O., FACOFP

Most families use the start of the school year as our calendar reminder to schedule our children’s annual well check-ups and immunizations. This year, it’s also especially important to make sure we do that for everyone in our family, and to also make sure we all receive our flu shots and any other age-appropriate immunizations or booster shots.

The year 2020 has been most unusual, to say the least. While the world has been focused on one particular illness—and healthcare providers have been limiting the number of patients in their clinics so as to preserve safe distancing measures and reduce the spread of that virus—we and our children may have missed doctor exams or follow-up care for any ongoing health conditions. It’s also likely that we may have missed our dental check-ups/cleanings and annual vision exams. With our usual activities and events all moving online over these past months, eye exams for the entire family are also especially important to monitor any changes in vision, dry eyes, or computer eyestrain and vision issues.

And now flu season is upon us as well. So there’s never been a better time to update immunizations and take care of any missed healthcare visits. That way, we can better protect our loved ones and our entire community from vaccine-preventable diseases and illnesses.

Why Vaccines?

Each year sees many localized outbreaks of preventable illnesses including influenza (flu), measles, whooping cough, hepatitis, varicella (chickenpox), pneumonia, and human papilloma virus (HPV). Vaccines not only provide protection for your children, but also protect our communities by reducing infections. People who work regularly with children should also be vaccinated, including teachers, tutors, coaches, and before- and after-school caregivers.

Recently, there has been much discussion about the safety and side effects of vaccines. Instead of randomly searching websites for vaccine information, parents should discuss concerns with their healthcare provider to better separate the facts from the myths. Healthcare providers can also identify those people who should not receive some of the vaccines or who should wait to receive them.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website is an additional resource for up-to-date vaccine information. According to the CDC, many steps are taken to ensure safety before vaccines can be approved for use. In normal times, this process can take 10 years or longer. Even after a vaccine is in use, both the CDC and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) monitor adverse events. According to the CDC website, “Any hint of a problem with a vaccine prompts further investigations by the CDC and FDA. If researchers find a vaccine may be causing a side effect, the CDC and FDA will initiate appropriate action that may include the changing of vaccine labels or packaging, distributing safety alerts, inspecting manufacturers’ facilities and records, withdrawing recommendations for the use of the vaccine, or revoking the vaccine’s license.”

Different vaccines are needed at different ages:

  • Newborns through 6 years of age – pneumonia; hepatitis A and B; chickenpox; haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib); diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (DTaP); polio; rotavirus; measles; mumps; rubella; and flu
  • Seven through 18 years of age – three vaccines at age 11-12 are recommended, including HPV, tetanus and pertussis (Tdap), and meningococcal (MCV)

The HPV vaccine, recommended for boys and girls, can prevent a cancer that is now found in adults that were exposed to the virus at a younger age. Catch-up HPV vaccination is recommended for all persons through age 18 years if not adequately vaccinated. The Tdap booster is recommended to increase your child’s immunity against tetanus and whooping cough because the childhood DTaP vaccine strength can fade. The MCV vaccine can prevent a potentially life- threatening disease known as meningitis that can involve inflammation of the tissue surrounding the brain. Exposure is common in the teenage years.

Adults require vaccine updates at various ages as well, and for certain illnesses that can more severely affect older people, such as shingles and pneumonia. And whenever a new baby arrives, mom and dad, aunts, uncles, grandparents and other caregivers who spend time with the new baby should all get needed boosters in order to protect the infant while his or her own immune defenses develop.

Why Flu Shots?

Almost everyone who is at least 6 months of age and older should get a flu shot annually. Flu is a contagious disease that spreads easily by people coughing and sneezing, usually between October and May of each year. While anyone can get the flu, the risk of getting flu and of having severe complications of flu is highest among children and the elderly.

According to the CDC, the flu can make some people much sicker than others. These people include young children, people age 65 and older, pregnant women, and people with certain health conditions such as heart, lung or kidney disease, nervous system disorders, or a weakened immune system. Each year, thousands of people in the United States die from flu, and many more are hospitalized.

If your child or anyone else in your family has missed any of the vaccines, talk to your healthcare provider about how to catch up. Also, provide schools or daycare facilities with a copy of your child’s updated immunization record each time your child receives a new vaccination. More information about vaccines and immunization schedules for the entire family can be found at: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines

The information contained in this article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, care, or treatment. Always consult a qualified healthcare provider with questions regarding any possible health condition.

Shannon Scott, D.O., FACOFP, is a Clinical Associate Professor in Family Medicine and Medical Director for the Midwestern University Multispecialty Clinic in Glendale, Arizona and Assistant Dean, Arizona College of Osteopathic Medicine.

The Multispecialty Clinic utilizes the latest technology and research to evaluate and treat a wide range of medical conditions for both children and adults and provides high-quality care at affordable prices.

For more information, visit www.mwuclinics.com or schedule an appointment with one of our Family Medicine physicians in Downers Grove, Illinois: 630-743-4500 or Glendale, Arizona: 623-537-6000.

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