The Importance of Immunizations
With the recent start to the school year and the coming fall season, a common question asked at Hillcrest Hospital Cushing is about vaccines. Stephanie Orsini, Quality Coordinator at Hillcrest Hospital Cushing, shared with us some insight about vaccines and answered some common questions asked by patients.
A common question brought up to doctors is about the flu vaccine and why there is a new one every year. “There are hundreds of different strains of flu viruses and they mutate constantly. Certain strains are more prevalent from year to year so the scientists that work on the flu vaccine survey and research which strains are going to be more prevalent in the next year and they focus their vaccine effort on those strains,” Stephanie notes. The constant evolving of the flu virus is why annual flu shots are needed and encouraged.
Patients often ask why some vaccines require boosters. Stephanie shares that “some vaccines contain an inactivated virus and it is not strong enough to build complete immunity. Multiple doses build up immunity over time. Other vaccines given in childhood help build the immune system but immunity wears off over time. Studies have shown that some vaccines require more than one dose to be sure that everyone develops enough antibodies to fight off infection.”
When patients ask if it’s possible to get an illness you’ve been vaccinated for, Stephanie answers “It’s possible. They’re not 100% effective. They stimulate your own immune system, so if you don’t build enough antibodies or if your immune system is compromised, you can easily attract the disease.”
What if a vaccine doesn’t work? Stephanie adds “vaccines don’t work immediately. It takes time for the white blood cells to learn the illness and remember how to fight it. So someone who is exposed to an illness just before or shortly after vaccination could become ill because the vaccine hasn’t had enough time to provide protection.” Stephanie also shares that “vaccines cause different levels of immunity in people based on their own personal immune system. Some people who are immune suppressed cannot receive vaccines so they depend on herd immunity from other people. So the more people in the population that are vaccinated, the less the disease spreads and the more people are protected even when the people who are immune suppressed such as the elderly, ill and infants.”
Stephanie wants to note that “people should know that vaccines aren’t just for kids- there are lots of vaccines available for the adult population. Women and men in their 20s should be vaccinated for HPV. Adults over the age of 50 should be vaccinated for shingles. Adults over 65 should be vaccinated against pneumonia. There are two different vaccines for pneumonia, so it’s important to talk to your doctor and take a team approach to getting the vaccines that you need because everybody’s vaccination needs are going to be different depending on your age and health condition.”