Have You Gotten Your Shots?
Remember the grade-school terror of standing in line for a vaccination? The occasional yelp from a classmate ahead of you? The dread of the needle? It’s true—immunizations aren’t pleasant, but who wouldn’t trade a few seconds of wincing for a year of protection against serious illness?
It’s fall, and that’s the optimal time to get your annual influenza (flu) and pneumonia shots. The Centers for Disease Control recommends these especially for persons age 65 and older, for younger adults who may be at a slightly increased risk for infectious diseases, and for any adult who simply wants to avoid the misery of being sick this winter.
Although annual flu and pneumonia vaccines have been recommended for years for people in high-risk groups (including seniors), many people still don’t receive them. Many people are not aware of the seriousness of influenza and pneumococcal infections. Others may believe they “don’t do much good.” Think again.
While vaccine effectiveness varies from person to person, studies in healthy young adults have shown the flu vaccine to be 70 – 90% effective in preventing illness. In the elderly, studies show the vaccine reduces hospitalization by 70% and death by 85%. Pneumococcal vaccine may not be quite this effective in preventing pneumonia, but it does prevent more severe infections with Streptococcus pneumoniae, including bacteremia (widespread blood infections) and meningitis. Pneumococcal infection, in fact, causes 40,000 deaths per year, more than any other vaccine-preventable illness. About half these deaths could be prevented with the vaccination, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Now’s the time! The flu season usually occurs from November until April. It takes 1 to 2 weeks for the vaccination to start protecting you, so for optimal protection you should get your shots sometime between October and mid-November. It’s advisable to get both the flu and pneumonia vaccinations at the same time: this won’t increase side effects, and you will be armed against winter’s ills.
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