Immunizations (vaccinations) have a big impact on not only your personal health, but also the health of your community. Vaccines are one of the most effective tools to prevent or lessen the effects of the flu, pneumonia, and other diseases.
None of us want to get sick or becomes so sick we end up in the hospital, but staying up to date on vaccinations can be a challenge for many. We spoke with Village Medical’s Danielle Smith, chief nursing officer, and Melinda Massey, occupational health nursing senior manager, to learn why vaccinations are important and how you can stay on track with your vaccines.
Why Are Vaccines Important?
Vaccines play a key role in preventing the spread of infectious diseases and protecting vulnerable people who may not be able to receive vaccinations, such as newborns or those with compromised immune systems. When more people are vaccinated against contagious diseases, we establish herd immunity, which results in a collective shield around the community that significantly reduces the risk of outbreaks from that disease.
“We sometimes hear patients downplay the importance of vaccines, saying ‘I never get sick,’” said Massey. “It only takes one bad experience with the flu or other illness to change their thinking. We want to prevent a bad reaction to a disease for both you and your community, and it can be as simple as one little jab to equip your body to fight the disease.”
How Vaccines Work?
Vaccines work by helping the body's immune system recognize and remember specific pathogens, such as the viruses or bacteria that cause the flu or pneumonia. When you receive the shot (vaccination), your body's immune system produces antibodies that can recognize and neutralize that specific pathogen in the future. As a result, if you encounter the actual virus or bacteria after being vaccinated, the immune system can mount a defense, preventing illness or reducing its severity.
Which Immunizations Should I Get?
There is no one answer to this question – immunization schedules vary depending on your age, health status, and other factors. For example, vaccinations you receive in childhood, adolescence, and adulthood may vary greatly (keep reading to learn more for your age range). That is why it is important to see your primary care doctor yearly to determine which vaccines are right for you as part of your Stay Well Care Plan.
“As we see new innovations and additional vaccines come out, schedules can feel more complicated for patients. That’s where we’re here to help,” said Smith.
- Adult Vaccinations: Vaccines like tetanus-diphtheria-pertussis (Tdap), pneumococcal, and shingles vaccines are essential for maintaining immunity against these diseases.
- Annual Influenza Vaccine: Influenza, or the flu, can cause severe illness and complications, particularly in vulnerable populations like the elderly or those with chronic health conditions. The CDC recommends everyone 6 months and older get the flu vaccine every flu season, which usually peaks in the fall and winter.
- Childhood Vaccinations: These typically protect against diseases like measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), polio, and Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib).
- Adolescent Vaccinations: Additional boosters may be recommended during adolescence, such as for meningococcal disease and human papillomavirus (HPV) to prevent certain cancers.
- COVID-19 Vaccination: Getting vaccinated against COVID-19 is critical in reducing transmission and preventing severe illness.
Are Vaccines Safe?
Vaccines are generally safe and well-tolerated, though they may cause mild side effects in some individuals. These side effects are usually short-lived and are signs the body is responding to the vaccine, such as soreness or redness at the injection site, low-grade fever, fatigue, or mild muscle aches.
“Many of the aches you may experience after a vaccination can simply be treated with a over the counter pain reliever,” said Massey.
Primary care doctors are trained to assess your medical history and any potential risks before administering vaccines. They will also monitor you for any concerning reactions.
Discuss Your Vaccination History with Your Primary Care Doctor
Your primary care doctor is an important resource when it comes to vaccinations. Sharing your vaccination history with them allows them to tailor a personalized immunization plan that aligns with your needs, age and health status. Additionally, if you have concerns about vaccinations, discussing them with your doctor can help provide you with the necessary information to make an informed decision about your health.