Live Wisely - August 17, 2022

2022 Flu and COVID Immunization Q&A | Answers to Vaccine Hesitancy  

By Timaeus Reed

News of the latest vaccines, keeping up-to-date with all our immunizations… it can seem daunting at times. Yet it is incredibly important. Bolstering public health requires a necessarily never-ending group effort, especially for underserved populations and older adults. To address the ongoing issues presented by COVID-19, and to safeguard against newer threats (like monkeypox), we must work together.

Of course, to be successful in this group effort, we must know what steps to follow: Which vaccines should we take, and how many? Do they even work? And what about the side effects?

The digital age we live in challenges us to diligently weed through misinformation. Thankfully, more people have sought to better their understanding of immunization in recent years. To help readers of The Good Life fight the good fight for our public health, we asked our two medical directors, Dr. Margaret Gloria and Dr. Mariatu Koroma-Nelson, a few frequently asked immunization questions.

Dr. Gloria (middle) recognized by the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce as a 2022 Top 40 Under 40

Why are vaccines important?

Dr. Gloria: Vaccines boost our own immune systems to help our bodies fight certain infections. There are so many examples of effective vaccines, from smallpox, polio and chicken pox to the seasonal flu and now COVID-19. Vaccines are immunization tools designed to fight the spread of these illnesses and, in the cases of flu and COVID-19, decrease the likelihood that people will get seriously ill from these diseases. One of the biggest misconceptions is that vaccines will completely eliminate a disease on the spot. Immunization is actually an ongoing, gradual process that aims to help our immune systems stave off diseases that want to adapt and survive. That’s why people are encouraged get the flu shot every year!

What can we expect regarding upcoming COVID-19 vaccines?

Dr. Gloria: Really exciting news! Pfizer and Moderna are expected to roll out a new vaccine booster that has specifically been tailored to the Omicron variant. This means the new booster is expected to be even more effective than the previous vaccines. Stay tuned for more updates on that rollout and fall booster recommendations.  your annual flu vaccine either, which should start to become available in September. There’s also a new COVID-19 vaccine from NovaVax that just received FDA approval and works differently from Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccine. I speak more about this and more in our most recent public webinar on COVID-19.

Dr. Koroma-Nelson receiving the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in December 2020

How do you talk patients through hesitations to get vaccinated?

Dr. Koroma-Nelson: Vaccine hesitancy has been around since the idea and process of vaccination were invented in the 1700s. Researchers, healthcare workers and public health workers play a crucial role in providing information and educating the public about importance of vaccines. Vaccination has helped with eradication and control of many deadly diseases worldwide. Conditions like influenza, pneumonia and COVID-19 have increased mortality among older adults and many studies have shown that vaccinations decrease that risk.

I address vaccine hesitancy in a patient-centered, personalized way by first listening to the patient and acknowledging concerns about vaccinations. There are psychosocial, educational and political factors that influence compliance with vaccination. Understanding the factors that influence the patient’s decision on vaccination and how much they have considered and researched a particular vaccine also helps me understand how to open the conversation with a patient. I will provide personal examples about my vaccination and journey. I will discuss with patient what to expect after the vaccine, and potential short-term and long-term side effects. I will also share the current data about the vaccine and reasons for my recommendation to get the vaccine.

There are several resources available to healthcare organizations, administrative leaders, healthcare leaders and healthcare workers on vaccine education and campaigns from the Centers for Disease Control, local and state health department websites.

Are there specific immunizations you recommend for people 55+?

Dr.Koroma-Nelson: These are the immunizations I typically recommend for adults ages 55+:

    • Influenza vaccine – annually
    • Td or Tdap vaccine (tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis) – every 10 years
    • Shingles vaccine – two-dose series
    • Pneumococcal vaccines, which protect against serious pneumococcal disease and pneumonia – there are four types of vaccines. Consult with your doctor to know which are right for you.
    • The Hepatitis B vaccine is recommended for all adults age 19 through 59 years, and adults age 60 years or older with risk factors for Hepatitis B infection.
    • COVID-19 vaccine and boosters

Consult Your Health Provider About Immunizations

At Goodwin Living, all residents, members and employees receive the latest information and guidance from our healthcare professionals. With the help of proven experts like Dr. Gloria and Dr. Koroma-Nelson, the health of our organization has remained relatively strong within our region over the years and through the pandemic.

Be that as it may, everyone is different, and blog articles and webinars are not provided as medical advice. We strongly encourage everyone to consult with their primary healthcare provider to find the best options for their needs and circumstances, as blog articles and webinars cannot anticipate the particular health factors of each individual.

If you have more questions about vaccines and immunizations and how they can help, we encourage you to review the information made available by the CDC and book an appointment with your primary care provider to discuss your specific situation. Thanks for doing your part to strengthen our public health!

_____________________________________

Timaeus Reed is a Marketing and Communications Specialist at Goodwin Living. He plans, writes and designs for internal and external campaigns that support all areas of the organization. He relocated from the Midwest to D.C. to join the team in the summer of 2021. When he isn’t getting lost in traffic, Timaeus loves listening to live Go-Go music and stand-up comedy.

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