As trials for a COVID-19 vaccine move forward, Americans await any news of progress. For many, the vaccine represents a “shot” at a next step in a pandemic that continues to change lives.
In the meantime, we keep vigilant, practicing the precautions we’ve come to know so well, like wearing masks and social distancing. As we focus attention on the prospects for a new vaccine and staying healthy, another component of our ongoing wellness is making sure to keep up-to-date with existing vaccines.
It’s easy to think of vaccines as being for children, but there are many immunizations we need over our lifetimes. New vaccines are developed and recommended at different ages, including boosters that may be needed to update to ones we received as children.
Flu – Each year’s flu season is different as the virus strains constantly change. Annually, millions are infected with flu resulting in hospitalizations and death. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends everyone six months or older get a flu vaccination every year.
Tdap – Adults who did not receive a Tdap vaccination as children should receive one as an adult to protect against diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough, with booster shots administered every ten years.
Shingles – As people age, their risk for shingles increases and vaccinations are recommended for those 50 and older, regardless of whether or not they’ve had singles in the past. The shingles rash shows up as blisters that scab over in seven to 10 days and clear up in two to four weeks. The painful rash often develops on one side of the body, typically on the torso or face. Even after shingles has cleared up, it can lead to postherpetic neuralgia (PHN), which is a longer-lasting pain.
Pneumococcal – Pneumococcus, or streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria, causes infections of the lungs and bloodstream. You may be more familiar with pneumococcal illnesses like pneumonia, meningitis, ear infections and sinus infections. Pneumococcal vaccination is indicated for all patients 65 and older and for younger patients with risk factors that would raise their risk for complications. Many pneumococcal infections are mild, but for older adults, they can be deadly. In fact, meningitis kills one in six older adults who contract it.
HPV – HPV vaccination protects against human papillomaviruses that causes the majority of cervical cancer and has been linked to other cancer, such as esophageal cancer. This vaccination is indicated for patients between nine and 26 years of age.
Your trusted primary care doctor can discuss your immunization history with you and help determine which vaccines may be recommended. Certain health conditions and pregnancy can also impact the need for certain vaccinations.
Across the country, many are putting off their annual exams due to COVID-19. While taking precautions against coronavirus is important, your annual physical is designed to keep you well. Be sure to schedule your annual exam and chat with your doctor about any vaccinations you may need.