Prevent Illness, Get Vaccinated!

shotsTime has escaped me. It seems like yesterday that I was in college, struggling for grades, anticipating a career in medicine, worrying about the war in Vietnam and starting a family. I never gave a thought to my health, most likely because I enjoyed wonderful health and no one ever, ever discussed health issues or immunizations for that matter. Immunizations, let’s call them shots, were given before you went to camp or a foreign country or the military. That has changed!

If you are the proud parents of a newborn, you will be amazed at the number of shots that your baby will be required to have before entering kindergarten. Many of the immunizations can be combined into one shot which is wonderful and the disease prevention value cannot be put into dollars and cents. The risk of a shot reaction is negligible.

Vaccines are available to prevent:

  • Flu
  • Mumps
  • Measles
  • Pneumonia
  • Meningitis
  • Cervical cancer
  • Other illnesses that we rarely think about today

It is difficult as a parent to watch your infant or child suffer the discomfort of four or five shots at a single visit. But you must, for your child’s sake. I remember hearing a youngster screaming in my office one day and I asked my nurse who that was. She said, that would be your daughter getting her kindergarten shots!! I will never forget that day. But I am forever thankful she was vaccinated and has been able to avoid those serious illnesses.

Children are not the only ones who need immunizations. Now there are vaccines available for disease prevention as we move through life. There is the tetanus shot, now generally combined with the diphtheria vaccine. The traditional travel vaccines are definitely encouraged for those entering foreign countries. Hepatitis B vaccines provide excellent protection against a very unlikable liver condition, especially for those persons working in high risk conditions. Pneumonia vaccines and shingles vaccines are also recommended for those past age 50. Believe me, if you know anyone who has had shingles, you will want the shot. Shingles is painful! The tiny pain a shot gives is totally worth it.

The next time you visit your primary care provider, ask if you are up to date on your shots. More than likely there will be a list in your medical record. It is a good idea to periodically review your immunization record with your health care provider and keep a copy at home. Most of the time, insurance will cover all, if not a majority of the cost. Prevention is well worth the cost. Stay healthy. Get your shots!

By Dr. James Powell

Chief Medical Officer at Avera Health Plans

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