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Staying current on immunizations at all stages of life

Putting band aid on after vaccination

By Dr. Frank L. Urbano, MBA, FACP

As an adult, you may not realize you need certain vaccines throughout your life and it’s important that you stay up to date, because immunity from childhood vaccines can wear off over time.

Vaccines play a large role in providing our bodies with immunity to a particular disease and is one of the most convenient and safest preventive care measures available. In August, we observe National Immunization Awareness Month, which is always an important reminder that vaccines can help protect everyone at every stage of life.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently simplified the adult immunization schedule, making it easier for providers to access and understand the recommendations, with the goal of improving vaccination rates among adults. Unsure of what other vaccines you may be eligible for as an adult? Check out the CDC’s, Adult Vaccine Assessment Tool. Recommendations can vary based on a number of factors including your age, health conditions and profession.

Vaccines are especially important for older adults and those with compromised immune systems. Besides the COVID-19 and flu vaccine, other important immunizations for adults include the following:

  • Tdap
  • Pneumococcal
  • HPV (Human Papilloma Virus)
  • Hepatitis B
  • Shingles (Varicella Zoster)

Protecting our communities

The COVID-19 vaccine is a modern-day example of how effective vaccinations are in helping protect our communities. As vaccination rates increase, our family, friends, colleagues, and other community members are less likely to contract COVID-19 and fall ill. As we collectively bring down cases, being vaccinated means we are contributing to reopening the activities we enjoy, like restaurants, sports, music, religious observance, and more.

If you are feeling unsure about whether it’s safe to get the COVID-19 vaccine, it’s important to know that in clinical trials the vaccines were tested on tens of thousands of people. Severe negative reactions are rare, and the vaccines are proven to be very effective in preventing serious illness. Appointments can be easily scheduled by visiting the State of New Jersey’s Vaccine Appointment Finder.

It’s not too early

Although most people get the flu vaccine between September and November, the flu season lasts through April, with most cases occurring between late December and early March. The flu vaccine can take up to two weeks to work, so it’s important to get vaccinated as soon as possible.

Some groups of people are at-risk for more serious flu complications that require hospitalization, so it’s especially critical to get the vaccine if you or someone you love is:

  • Under five years of age, especially those younger than two years old
  • Over age 65
  • Pregnant or up to two weeks postpartum
  • Residing in a nursing home
  • Native American
  • Suffering from a health condition like asthma, chronic lung disease, diabetes, or heart disease
  • Compromised immune systems, including people who might be receiving chemotherapy

Protect yourself and others by scheduling a visit with your primary care physician to discuss which vaccinations are right for you.

Dr. Frank L. Urbano, MBA, FACP is senior medical director for AmeriHealth New Jersey.