What Are Vaccinations?
Vaccinations are not medications; they are not meant to treat diseases. Their purpose is to prevent your child or yourself from getting the disease in the first place. The idea behind immunizations is to activate an antibody response. This essentially “trains” the body’s immune system. Think of a disease as an invading army. When an army invades a new land, the defenders know nothing about them or their tactics. They’re not going to know how to defend themselves and succumb easily. However, if the defenders know how to fight an invading army, they’ll have an easier time fighting against the invaders. That’s essentially how the immune system works with immunizations.
What Is Our Body’s Immune System?
The immune system isn’t just a single type of cell, it’s an entire system of different cells, tissues, and organs that work in tandem to protect the body against foreign invaders. Typically, the immune system knows when something foreign has entered the body. When your body fights off an infection the first time, the immune system can discharge antibodies for that specific disease. The immune system itself is very efficient. Unfortunately, without prior knowledge of a disease, it’s going to have a more difficult time fighting it off. That’s why getting immunizations is crucial because it prepares the body ahead of time to provide the correct antibody response.
Why Are Immunizations Especially Important Now?
Unfortunately, the “flu” is a blanket term that covers multiple strains of the disease. For example, if you received immunization last year, but got the flu again this year, then you’ve contracted a different strain of the influenza virus. This is why it’s crucial for you and your children to get a flu shot every year.
It’s important, given the current situation in the world, to reduce the risk of as many diseases as possible. Right now, there isn’t a vaccination for the Sars-cov-2 virus that’s causing the COVID-19 pandemic. Even with social distancing protocols in place, it’s not easy to keep children apart during the school year. On top of that, the flu can be just as severe as COVID-19, sending thousands of children and adults to the hospital with complications every year. For the 2019-2020 year, CDC estimates that more than 400,000 flu hospitalizations occurred, including at least 24,000 flu deaths, of which 179 were pediatric cases.
In contrast to the current worldwide pandemic, a significant portion of the flu cases this year can be prevented. At the very least complications leading hospitalizations can be prevented or significantly reduced. Unlike COVID-19, we do have a flu vaccine this year. The vaccine gives the best protection against the disease, its serious potential complications, and decreases its spread to others!
The immune system is efficient in fighting off foreign invaders, but the more pressure put on it with additional diseases, the harder time it will have. A worry that none of us should have for ourselves or our children is what if we were to contract COVID-19 on top of the flu? Sometimes serious consequences from a disease can be from the immune system’s response to fighting of diseases, because it can go into overdrive as we have seen with COVID-19 at times.
Don’t put your child at risk for preventable diseases. It is of utmost importance that you bring your children for their immunizations, especially now just as schools are starting back. Foregoing immunizations will lead to spread or “comeback” of more diseases. It is unfortunate that we’re going through unprecedented times where we are cautiously and somewhat worriedly going through the days until we have a vaccine ready for COVID-19. There is absolutely no reason to bring a previously well-contained, very contagious and serious diseases, for example measles, back into our community by foregoing proven vaccinations.
If you are concerned about contacting a virus by going into a health facility, do call the facility to ask about their safety measures. Most healthcare facilities offering vaccines, such as the health department, which I have recently visited myself, have many safety precautions in place.
Have a great day and take care!
Dr. Efe with Birmingham Direct Primary Care
P.S. We have just received our stock of flu vaccines at Birmingham Direct Primary Care, and they are available to our patients for only $17! For other vaccinations that our patients may need, we coordinate their administration by working with the health department, pharmacies or other clinics.