August is National Immunization Awareness Month, a month to focus on the importance of vaccination for people of all ages, and the impact that vaccines and immunization science have on public health.
“This month gives us the opportunity to remind our patients and customers to get their annual vaccines, and to catch up on those routine vaccinations that may have been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Cheri Schmit, a pharmacist and part of Cardinal Health’s Pharmacy of the Future team, which supports independent community pharmacies and small regional chains. “Particularly as children, adolescents and college students head back to school this fall, it’s important to make sure they are up to date on recommended vaccines and well-child visits.”
Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a dramatic effect on routine vaccine rates. From January 2020 through July 2021, adults and teens in the U.S. may have missed as many as 37.1 million doses of recommended vaccines, compared to 2019, according to the health care consulting firm Avalere. The decline in vaccines means that herd immunity against flu and other diseases is at greater risk.
“In the U.S., vaccines have reduced or eliminated many infectious diseases that once caused serious injury or death,” Schmit said. “However, the viruses and bacteria that caused these diseases still exist, which means unvaccinated individuals are still at risk of contracting these serious illnesses.”
Your community pharmacist can make getting caught up on vaccines – for you and your family – convenient. “In many states, pharmacists can administer (and often prescribe) any vaccine recommended by the CDC’s Advisory Council on Immunization Practices,” Schmit said. “And, in most cases, this is covered by insurance, making vaccination at your local pharmacy not only convenient but also affordable.”
You can now get multiple vaccines with one visit to your pharmacist. “Pharmacists can also answer any questions you have about vaccines, and address any concerns,” Schmit said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), vaccines help protect against certain diseases, such as the flu or COVID-19, by imitating an infection. This type of imitation infection teaches the immune system how to fight off a future infection. And while it is possible to get minor symptoms after getting a vaccine, like a fever, this is normal and should be expected as the body builds immunity.
Flu is often among the top 10 causes of death in the U.S.; the CDC estimates that flu has caused 12,000 to 61,000 deaths each year since 2010. Flu is especially dangerous for young children, older adults and people with cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity or asthma. Flu vaccines, according to CDC data, can reduce the chances of getting the flu by 40 to 60%. “It’s recommended that everyone 6 months of age and older get the flu vaccine every year by the end of October, before the flu season begins,” Schmit said.
Shingles is another disease where infection rates have been increasing over the years. It is estimated that almost 1 out of 3 people in the U.S. will develop shingles and the risk of getting the disease increases with age. The CDC recommends that adults 50 years and older get two doses of the shingles vaccine to prevent the disease and its complications. Adults 19 years and older who have weakened immune systems also should get vaccinated.
Schmit recommends talking with your pharmacists to learn more about the importance, efficacy and safety of vaccines; you can also find in-depth information from the CDC here.
Editors’ note to pharmacists: Every year, community pharmacists work tirelessly to help prevent the spread of disease, educating their communities, alleviating their patients’ concerns about vaccines and, collectively, administering hundreds of thousands of vaccines. At Cardinal Health, we are incredibly grateful for their significant contribution to the health of their communities and are proud to support them.
“Pharmacies can transform their businesses into year-round vaccination destinations by using Cardinal Health’s Immunizations Solutions. Members get access to Collaborative Practice Agreements, program development guides, a dedicated web-based resource center, discounts on annual flu pre-book orders and more.” In addition, pharmacies also can use Cardinal Health’s flu vaccine program to ensure they have the right mix of vaccines needed to help patients stay healthy. Learn more at Cardinal Health’s Patient Care Solutions.