Atrium Health Navicent physicians urge the community to catch up on recommended vaccinations this August in observance of National Immunization Awareness Month and to take preventative steps to improve health and wellness.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recently issued new guidelines recommending that adults ages 60 and older talk to their doctors about receiving a single dose of the Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) vaccine. The vaccine is expected to be available this fall.
RSV is a common respiratory virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms. While most people recover in a week or two, RSV can be serious for infants and older adults. Adults at the highest risk for severe RSV illness include older adults, adults with chronic heart or lung disease, adults with weakened immune systems, and adults living in nursing homes or long-term care facilities.
The CDC estimates that every year, RSV causes 60,000-160,000 hospitalizations and 6,000-10,000 deaths among older adults.
The CDC also reports that RSV is the most common cause of bronchiolitis and pneumonia in children younger than 1 year of age. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently approved Nirsevimab, sold under the brand name Beyfortus, to protect newborns from RSV. Beyfortus is an antibody that can block the virus from infecting healthy cells. It’s given as a single injection to an infant before RSV season. The FDA also approved a second injection for infants up to 24 months of age who remain vulnerable through their second RSV season.
Even though COVID-19 is no longer a national health emergency, COVID-19 vaccinations still are recommended for everyone ages 6 months and older, and COVID-19 booster shots are recommended for everyone ages 5 years and older.
“We’re starting to see more cases of COVID-19 and as summer turns to fall, we’re expecting to see an uptick in RSV and other respiratory diseases,” said Dr. Warren Hutchings, medical director for Atrium Health Navicent Primary Care West Macon. “COVID-19 vaccines have offered life-saving protection, and now, with the RSV vaccine and infant injection, we’ll have more tools to prevent another dangerous disease.”
It’s also important for parents and guardians to ensure children are up to date on routine vaccinations. On-time vaccination throughout childhood is essential because the vaccines provide immunity before children are exposed to potentially life-threatening diseases.
The CDC reports that during the 2021–22 school year, national coverage with state-required vaccines among kindergarten students decreased again to approximately 93 percent for all state-required vaccines. An additional 4.4 percent of children were not up to date with measles, mumps and rubella vaccination.
“No matter your age, vaccines are an important component of disease prevention. If it’s been a while since you or your loved ones have seen a primary care physician for an annual wellness exam, chances are you may be behind schedule with vaccinations. Now is the time to make that appointment. Vaccinations only take a few minutes but can have lifelong positive impacts on your family’s health,” Hutchings said.
Vaccinations are important
Immunizations are one of the most vital components of childhood health. Missing or delaying them puts your child and immunocompromised people in the community at risk of contracting diseases such as influenza, measles, pneumonia, polio, COVID-19 and chickenpox.
The shots given during childhood don’t just protect kids while they’re young; protection carries through into adulthood. In many cases, a booster is recommended periodically, such as the tetanus and diphtheria shot recommended every 10 years for adults. The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine series, which should start in the tween years, helps prevent cervical cancer, as well as head and neck cancers for which HPV is a leading cause.
Many physicians believe that the prevalence of false information about vaccines is what triggers most parental fear about getting their children immunized. However, it’s important for people to know that vaccines are tested to ensure that they are safe and effective for children and adults to receive at recommended ages.
Tips to put your child at ease before their vaccinations
Vaccinations don’t have to be scary or intimidating for children. There are several ways parents and guardians can help kids feel comfortable and prepared ahead of time. With most vaccines, children (just like adults) can expect some pain at the injection site and some soreness in the area after getting a shot. Most side effects, if they occur, can be easily managed at home with remedies like over-the-counter pain relievers.
There are many things parents and guardians can do to ensure vaccinations go as smoothly as possible.
Don’t panic if your child panics. Keep calm, provide a distraction and offer positive reinforcement.
Don’t force your child physically. You can support them with a hug, holding hands or letting them squeeze your hand.
Don’t scold your child if they are afraid. Instead, explain the benefits of the vaccine and offer a reward.
Explain to your child that the benefits of vaccines far outweigh any risks or side effects.
Let kids know that a moment of pain is normal. They may feel a pinch or little sting, but it’s minimal and temporary.
Normalize vaccines as a part of a well child visit. Prepare your child ahead of time by letting them know to expect a vaccine.
Keep a calm demeanor during vaccinations.
Provide distraction, like having your child count down, blow hard or do deep breathing if they are worried, anxious or fidgeting during the vaccination.
Offer a reward, like stickers, toys, books or even a treat to provide positive reinforcement after getting vaccinated.
Give your child a dose of over-the-counter pain reliever after shots if necessary to relieve any lingering soreness at the injection site.
Make sure your child drinks plenty of fluids after receiving a vaccination.
Model good behavior by getting your annual flu shot and other necessary vaccines.
Need help finding a doctor? Visit navicenthealth.org and click “Find a Doctor.”