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Are you Up-to-Date on These 4 Vaccines?

Here’s why it’s extra important to be current on these vaccines during our pandemic.

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Christina Ree, PharmD | June 23, 2020
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This year has brought about a lot of reflection and rethinking about our daily lives and routines. One question many of us have is around our health: How can we keep ourselves and our loved ones healthy? What practices can we incorporate into our lives to boost our immune system to fight against COVID-19, particularly with cough and flu season just a few months away? Eating healthy, staying active, cutting back on alcohol, getting plenty of sleep, reducing stress and following physical distancing guidelines are all important. Here’s another one you should consider at the top of your list: Making sure you are up to date on your vaccinations. Here are four vaccines (plus another for fall) we recommend you prioritize first.

1. Pneumococcal

This vaccine protects against pneumonia, which is an acute respiratory infection that affects the lungs. It often shows up as a secondary illness following a bad cold, the flu or perhaps COVID-19 as well.

There are two different types of pneumococcal vaccines, one for all children younger than two years old, and then another specifically tailored to all seniors 65+. The vaccine for seniors helps provide broader protection against serious infections caused by pneumococcal bacteria. Both vaccines may be recommended to individuals of varying age groups with certain medical conditions. Speak to your pharmacist or other health care provider for details.

Why it’s important: As you get older your immune system dips which makes it harder to fight infections. This vaccine helps to protect against the most common causes of severe pneumonia.

2. Tdap

This is a combined vaccine to prevent tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (whooping cough). Everyone needs their Tdap shot at least once every ten years. Pregnant women should also get a dose of Tdap during their third trimester of every pregnancy. This one is especially important if you’re pregnant or around infants since they are most at risk for severe complications from pertussis.

Why it’s important: Whooping cough is a serious and often deadly disease for babies. Unfortunately, we have outbreaks here in WA state annually. 2015 was our last larger outbreak with over 1,400 cases in Western Washington. Here’s a short video that goes into more detail on whooping cough. Whooping cough is easily preventable with a simple Tdap vaccine.

3. MMR

This one stands for measles, mumps and rubella. Typically, this is a vaccine children get as a two part series, when they are one years old and then again between the ages of 4-6 (right around Kindergarten). As many of you remember, we had a measles outbreak in WA state last year which landed children and seniors in the hospital. We’ve also had multiple mumps outbreaks in the last ten years, both preventable with this vaccine. If you were born after 1957 and aren’t sure if you have a documented vaccination with live measles, you may also need this vaccine. Speak with your pharmacist or health care provider for details.

Why it’s important: There are a couple reasons why it’s important to stay up-to-date on your MMR shot. First, measles, mumps and rubella are extremely contagious diseases that are actively circulating around the globe. Also, there are new rules in WA State this year related to vaccine records needed for school. Instead of a written and signed sheet from a parents, students are required to have medically verified proof of their vaccines, MMR included. With another school year just around the corner, it’s a great time to make sure all your family’s records (and vaccines) are up-to-date.

4. Shingrix

This new and improved vaccine is more than 90% effective in preventing shingles, a painful skin rash that can materialize in patients that have had the chickenpox in their past. Shingrix is a two-part series recommended for those 50+. Even if you have already received the older version of the shingles shot, Zostavax®, the CDC recommends you get this vaccine as well since Zostavax®’s efficacy weans drastically over time and thus does not offer adequate protection.

Why it’s important: If you are 50 and older, particularly with a weakened immune system, shingles could result in complications such as long-term nerve pain and, in severe cases, hospitalization. During this time of COVID-19, we want to minimize the number of trips individuals have to take to see their physicians or enter the hospital system for preventable diseases, especially our more vulnerable populations.

5. Flu

The flu shot for the 2020-2021 season is not available yet, but will be available at your local pharmacy by around September 1st. That said, we thought this was a great time to remind you it’s especially important this year to get your flu shot.

Why it’s important: A flu shot can help protect you from getting the flu or lessen the severity of the flu if you do contract the virus. The symptoms of COVID-19 and the flu overlap dramatically. So by getting your flu shot, it is one way to control an infectious disease through vaccination. Note that in a typical season, hundreds of thousands of people are hospitalized with flu complications. By getting your flu shot, you can help to reduce the massive toll on our healthcare system this fall and allow them to focus on treating COVID-19 patients.

Good news! Your neighborhood Bartell pharmacist can administer all your necessary immunizations, so you can skip that trip to your doctor’s office. Rest assured, we follow all of CDC’s latest guidelines for safe hygiene practices around COVID-19. For this reason, we ask that all patients make an appointment, which you can do by contacting your local pharmacist today.

Not sure if you’re up-to-date on your vaccinations? You’re not alone! We recommend starting the process by calling your local Bartell pharmacist, or your doctor. Vaccines are often reported into a state centralized database which makes it easy for your pharmacist or doctor to look up your WA State records for you. Note, this is not a national database, so if you’ve lived outside WA, or even if you haven’t received a vaccine in the last decade or so, it’s very possible that this state database won’t have your updated records. If this is the case, we first recommend that you attempt to contact your previous doctor(s) or health care facilities to retrieve this info. If that’s not possible or successful, the CDC recommends you move forward with getting a vaccine.

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