You Have the Power to Protect Against Vaccine-Preventable Diseases, Including COVID-19
Vaccines are safe and effective at preventing serious diseases. They work with your body’s natural defenses to help safely develop protection from diseases, are tested to ensure they are safe and effective, and monitored by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) after they are in use.
Vaccines are considered by physicians and scientists to be one of the greatest medical breakthroughs of the last 180 years. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, vaccines have prevented 332 million illnesses—more than the current population of the entire U.S.—and saved an estimated 732,000 lives.
Aside from being safe and highly effective, COVID-19 vaccines are widely accessible in the U.S. and available to everyone at no cost.
The vaccines were developed using science that has been around for decades and went through all the required stages of clinical trials. They can prevent you from contracting and spreading the virus that causes COVID-19 and will also help keep you from getting seriously ill even if you do contract COVID-19. Getting vaccinated may also protect those around you.
The mRNA technology employed by the COVID-19 vaccine teaches our cells to make a protein or part of a protein that then triggers an immune response, which produces antibodies and protects us from viral infection. That genetic material is discarded once our immune system has been activated; it does not replicate or reproduce and is quickly degraded by the body. Importantly—and contrary to misinformation that has made some fearful of getting vaccinated—it does not enter the special place in our cells where our DNA resides.
Misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccine has also made some women fearful the shots could affect their fertility. There’s no link between the vaccines and infertility, and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists both recommend that women who are pregnant, planning to become pregnant or breastfeeding receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
Data shows that COVID-19 has disproportionately affected Alaska Native and American Indian (AN/AI) populations, with higher rates of infection, hospitalization and mortality. This makes it especially important for AN/AI people to get vaccinated.
The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months of age and older get a flu vaccine every season, with rare exceptions. For the upcoming influenza season, typically October through April, the influenza vaccination will be essential in reducing respiratory illnesses and resulting burdens on the healthcare system during the COVID-19 pandemic.
It can take up to four weeks to have full immunity from the flu shot. Once you get the shot, you will be protected for about six months. According to the CDC, September and October are good times to get a flu shot. However, as long as flu viruses are circulating, vaccination should continue into January and even later.
On-time vaccination throughout childhood is essential because it helps provide immunity before children are exposed to potentially life-threatening diseases. In recent years, measles outbreaks have occurred in California, Minnesota, New York, Oregon and Washington State. Measles can be serious and even fatal for small children. The majority of people infected were not vaccinated.
Many Americans have delayed or stopped receiving routine and preventive care during the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, this has meant significant drops in critical childhood vaccination rates—a development that could affect community protections against serious diseases. To prevent further risk to children and communities, it is vital that children receive recommended vaccinations on time and catch up on any vaccinations missed as a result of the pandemic as soon as possible. For age-specific routine vaccine information from birth through 18 years, visit cdc.gov/vaccines/parents/by-age.
Adults 19 years of age and older also need to keep their vaccinations up to date because immunity from childhood vaccines can wear off over time. To see which vaccines might be recommended for adults, visit www2.cdc.gov/nip/AdultImmSched.
Where can I go to get immunized?
For people in the U.S. ages 12 and up, COVID-19 vaccines are free and available to anyone who wants one. To find a COVID-19 vaccination site near you, visit vaccines.gov or call (800) 232-0233.
With most insurances, the flu vaccine is offered free of charge. Flu shots are generally available at your doctor’s office and at some pharmacies. Many places also offer drive-through flu shots, including community clinics, major hospital networks and even grocery chains.
Southcentral Foundation offers a broad range of health and wellness services, including vaccines throughout all stages of life, for AN/AI people living in the Cook Inlet region of Alaska. For information or to schedule an appointment, visit southcentralfoundation.com or call (907) 729- 4955 / (800) 478-3343.