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Are Your Immunizations Up To Date?

Nurse giving a vaccineMeasles, mumps, Rubella, pneumonia, polio, HPV, chickenpox, shingles, flu, tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis, hepatitis, and covid! Vaccines aren’t just for kids! The pandemic made us more aware of vaccine accessibility and the importance of keeping up to date on immunization.

“In Vermont, we are able to robustly provide vaccines at no cost to patients under the age of 65 because insurers pay into the state program that supplies vaccines to provider offices,” said Tracy Upton, RN, Community Health Director of Clinical Operations.

If you are over 65, pay attention – Medicare coverage is different. Medicare patients should ask their primary care provider to review their immunizations and then talk about where to get the vaccines they need.

“It’s been several years now that pharmacies have been administering vaccines for those covered by Medicare Part D coverage to Medicare patients,” said Upton. “And last year, as part of the Inflation Reduction Act passed by Congress, there now is no copay for vaccines for patients who are on Medicare. This includes shingles, pneumococcal, Tdap and recommended travel vaccinations.”

Anyone under the age of 65 can receive some of the adult vaccines without charge from their Community Health primary care provider, such as the shingles vaccine. “You can get the shingles vaccine starting at age 50, so we educate providers to encourage that the vaccine be administered before the patient turns 65 so they won’t encounter a payment issue,” Upton said.

Medicare Annual Wellness Visit

An immunization review is included in the Medicare Annual Wellness Visit (AWV), available at Community Health for Medicare patients who have been enrolled in Medicare Part B for at least 12 months. The Annual Wellness Visit focuses on prevention and is designed to lower the risk of illness and injury and provide the support needed for a healthy quality of life. Some vaccines could be administered for those over 65 as part of the preventive AWV.

Why Get Vaccinated?

Vaccines provide protection against serious life-threatening infectious diseases from birth to adulthood. Immunization:

  • Stops the spread of disease
  • Builds community immunity
  • Protects people too sick, too young, or too old to get vaccinated

Childhood vaccines offer protection from serious or potentially fatal diseases. But it can be challenging to understand which vaccines are needed and when during a lifetime.

The World Health Organization reports that millions of lives are saved each year thanks to immunizations which are available for more than 20 life-threatening diseases. In 2022, Community Health administered almost 37,600 vaccines.

What’s the latest on the Covid vaccine?

May 11, 2023, marked the end of the federal Covid-19 Public Health Emergency declaration. For two years, primary healthcare organizations like Community Health responded to the health crisis – scheduling clinics, updating equipment for proper storage of the different serums, and equipping and training staff so they could urgently, safely, and effectively address the health emergency. Community Health administered 10,558 Covid vaccines in 2022.

The most recent guidance from the CDC is that the Bivalent vaccine, released in the fall of 2022, is recommended for adults and children. To be up to date:

  • Everyone aged 6 years and older should get one updated Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine regardless of whether they received any original Covid vaccines.
  • People aged 65 years and older may get a second dose of the updated Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna Covid-19 vaccine four or more months after the first updated Covid vaccine.
  • People who are moderately or severely immunocompromised may get additional doses of updated Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna Covid-19 vaccine two or more months after the first updated Covid-19 vaccine.
  • Children aged 6 months to 5 years may need multiple doses of the Covid-19 vaccine, including at least one dose of updated Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, depending on the number of doses they’ve previously received and their age. For details, consult the COVID-19 vaccination schedule for children.

Are your vaccines up to date?

Vaccines work with your body’s natural defenses to build protection and reduce the risk of getting a disease. When you get a vaccine, your immune system responds.

“It’s important to have a discussion with your provider to understand if you are up to date with the recommended vaccines because recommendations do change over time,” Upton said. A good example is the change in guidance with the Hepatitis B vaccine. “Depending on when a person was born, if it was part of the regular vaccine series, or if they didn’t receive it when they were older. They are now recommending that the Hep B vaccine be given to patients 65 years and older. We want vaccines to be like any other part of someone’s healthcare. It is important that patients understand why vaccines are important, and why a certain vaccine might be important for them based on their medical history and their age. The choice to receive a vaccine is a discussion they should have with their provider. The decision is shared between the patient and the provider.”

At Community Health, healthcare providers have information about the available vaccines, the recommended age groups, and boosters needed to maintain full protection. Flu shots are available every year starting in October for the whole family. For those with chronic health problems like diabetes or asthma, flu, and covid symptoms can make chronic health conditions worse. If you are unsure what vaccines you have received or if you are up to date on required boosters, check with your primary care provider or your pediatrician.

Here are links to more information about vaccines and immunization:

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