National Immunization Awareness Month
Every August is National Immunization Awareness Month, and the topic of vaccines is generating more buzz than ever lately. It seems like the race to find a viable treatment for COVID-19 is matched only by the rapid spread of virus itself.
But it would be a mistake to let that fervor eclipse the importance of your regularly scheduled immunizations. Staying up to date on routine vaccines is your best protection against serious but preventable diseases, from whopping cough to meningitis.
With schools back in session and flu season looming, August is the perfect time to check up on the recommended immunization needs of you and your family. Some vaccines, like the flu, are necessary every year. Some you need only periodically, or in special circumstances or at certain ages. Your healthcare professional can determine what vaccines you and your family need.
You may be wondering: how does COVID-19 impact immunization? Allow us to answer some frequently asked questions about COVID-19 and routine vaccines.
My child’s school is partly or entirely remote right now. Do I still need school-required vaccines?
Classrooms may be closed, but childhood diseases aren’t taking a vacation. Your child still needs all school immunization requirements. Young children that are in daycare should be especially diligent in sticking to the vaccine schedule—remember that germs that cause vaccine-preventable diseases can still spread to people who are not protected by vaccines. Keep that yearly physical or wellness check-up!
If I’m social distancing or undergoing quarantine, do I still need the flu shot?
Yes! You can still be exposed to the flu virus even if you’re mostly staying home. And it’s more important now than ever to avoid catching the flu. The flu is a respiratory disease, just like COVID-19. Medical facilities are inundated every year with flu patients. Lowering the spread of the flu by vaccinating will lower the burden on hospitals and medical professionals, ensuring care capacity for the most critically ill.
Is it possible to have COVID-19 and the flu?
Yes, you can have both at the same time. That could be devastating, especially to groups who are at increased risk for flu complications like young children, pregnant women, people with chronic health conditions and those who are 65 and older. Even if you’re not at high risk for complications, you can transmit both viruses to others.
I’m nervous about exposing myself to COVID-19. Shouldn’t I avoid going to a medical facility for non-emergencies like vaccines?
The pandemic should not deter anyone from routine vaccination. The purpose of routine immunization is to keep you healthy and well, with fewer visits to the doctor. The last thing you want is to end up in the hospital during a pandemic with a disease that could have been prevented by a vaccine. Plus, clinics are among the safest places in the community as far as preventing the spread of disease! QueensCare Health Centers is taking every possible precaution against the risk of any infection, especially COVID-19. QHC implemented a COVID-19 Response Plan developed using the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (DCD) and the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services’ protocols and guidelines as well as guidance from our Chief Medical Officer. We have implemented screening protocols, amped cleaning protocols, isolation rooms, telehealth visits, different points of entry and exit to all facilities, and more to make our facilities as safe as possible.
I think I’m behind on my (or my child’s) vaccines. What should I do?
First, you’re not alone. The CDC observed a sizeable drop in the number of pediatric vaccines ordered after the COVID-19 emergency declaration (in Southern California, the drop could be as deep as 40 to 90% for some vaccines). As social distancing measures have relaxed, those who are not protected by vaccines will be at greater risk of exposure. But don’t worry—just make an appointment. If you’ve missed a vaccine, your QueensCare provider will know what to do to catch you up safely.
Is there any vaccine you should not get right now?
There are no vaccines that should be deferred over COVID-19 concerns. Some vaccines, like the one for shingles, may have mild side effects that could be mistaken for COVID-19, but these will not include respiratory symptoms like cough and shortness of breath, and usually clear up in 72 hours. One caveat: if you have COVID-19 symptoms or test positive, you should wait until you meet the criteria to stop isolating before coming in for a vaccine.
It’s not flu season yet. Can I wait on the flu shot?
September might seem a bit early, but early in the season is the perfect time to get a flu shot. It takes two weeks for the flu vaccine to be effective, so we strongly encourage you to get immunized before the flu starts spreading. Everyone over the age of six months should get a flu vaccine!
All five QueensCare Health Centers are open to the community for immunizations, and all have a pediatrician on staff taking vaccine appointments. Call to schedule your appointment today at (323) 635-1144.