August 23, 2023
by Arjun Ohri, MD, FryeCare Hickory Family Practice Associates
On May 11, 2023, the Department of Health and Human Services announced an end to the public health emergency brought on by COVID-19. Since the peak of the Omicron variant in January 2022, COVID-19 cases have declined rapidly. Though the disease still poses a health risk to many Americans, COVID-19 death rates have dropped 95% from their height in 2021. As a nation, we are the healthiest we’ve been in years.
Much of our achievement in combatting the virus can be attributed to a record-breaking vaccine rollout. Since the first COVID-19 vaccine was released to the public, more than 270 million Americans have received at least one dose, and over 70% are considered fully immunized, making this the largest adult vaccination program in our nation’s history. As more of us become resistant to the virus, we are able to return to the activities we love – visiting restaurants, traveling outdoors, and hosting social gatherings – without fear that we’ll endanger ourselves or the people around us.
August is National Immunization Awareness Month. Each year, we take this time to recognize that vaccines are essential to our health and the health of our community – a lesson that the past few years have made especially clear. For centuries, immunization has been one of the most effective ways we can protect ourselves from preventable illness. Diseases that were once deadly, such as polio, have all but vanished thanks to the power of community-wide vaccination, while others such as COVID-19 are becoming much less dangerous. Whether we’re young or old, we can stop the spread of disease by following vaccination guidelines.
Although COVID is still on the forefront of everyone’s mind, it’s important to remember that other diseases have not gone away. The CDC has observed that over the past few years, many children missed yearly check-ups due to concerns surrounding COVID. September is approaching, which for many Americans means the start of the school year. As you gear up your child with books and pencils, make sure to also check their immunization record, and talk to their provider about making up any missed appointments.
Vaccines aren’t just for kids. Adults also benefit from certain vaccinations, to protect against diseases such as shingles, tetanus, and the common flu. Some vaccines can even reduce your risk of cancer – the Hepatitis B vaccine can prevent liver cancer, while the HPV vaccine immunizes you against the most common cause of cervical cancer. Your recommended vaccines may vary, depending on your age, lifestyle, and prior immunization history. For instance, adults who travel frequently, or who missed important vaccinations during childhood, may be due for a check-up. Talk to your primary care provider about your vaccine history, and ask if any of the following vaccines are right for you:
If there is a lesson we should take away from the past few years, it’s that our community’s health is everything, and protecting our health is everyone’s responsibility. When you get vaccinated to strengthen your immune system, you’re not just safeguarding yourself from common illnesses, you’re also protecting your family, neighbors, and the most vulnerable members of your community. Because everyone deserves a healthy life.
Schedule a check-up with your primary care provider today. To find a provider close to home, call Frye Regional Medical Center’s physician referral line at 828-315-3391.
For more information on immunization recommendations by age, visit www.cdc.gov/vaccines.
Dr. Arjun Ohri is a board-certified internal medicine physician at FryeCare Hickory Family Practice in Hickory, NC.