Fall is an important time of year for vaccinations. For most families, it is back to school season, which means ensuring all children and adolescents are up to date per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices guidelines. (Getty Images)
Fall in Idaho — a time for Boise State University football games, pumpkin flavored drinks, sweaters in the morning and shorts in the afternoon. Kids are back in school, and the days of warm weather are coming to an end, which we all know means cold and influenza (flu) season is coming. From prior years’ experience this most likely means an increase in COVID-19 cases as well.
Fall is an important time of year for vaccinations. For most families, it is back to school season, which means ensuring all children and adolescents are up to date per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices guidelines. Typical age groups for immunizations are 2 months to 2 years of age, kindergarten age, 11-12 years of age, and 16 years of age.
One important vaccine for all ages that is routinely forgotten is the Dtap or Tdap vaccines. The pertussis component of the Dtap/Tdap protects against what is commonly known as whooping cough. Pertussis can be dangerous, and even deadly, to those who are young, 60+, or with compromised immune systems.
Fall also means time to think about flu vaccines as well as COVID. Flu and COVID vaccines are important to have every year because flu strains and the COVID virus change and mutate. Flu and COVID vaccines are recommended for those aged six months and up. Vaccines do not 100% prevent disease, but they can lessen the effects of a particular disease. When a person is already vaccinated, a person’s immune system recognizes and defends against the virus. Vaccines can also prevent severe illness, hospitalizations, and even death.
History and myths about vaccines
Vaccines have been around for over 200 years and have been proven to help protect people from disease. George Washington inoculated his troops against smallpox in 1776. Some of the first vaccines of the 20th century were tested on employees that created them and their own children. Vaccines have been able to save thousands of lives from long-term complications, and even death, caused by viruses and bacteria. Some vaccines have even allowed certain diseases, such as smallpox and polio, to be eradicated or nearly eradicated in the U.S. and throughout the world.
A common myth is that the vaccines cause the disease they are supposed to prevent, when, in fact, it is just the body proving it is mounting an immune response to fight against that virus. The virus is not alive and cannot infect you or cause you to infect others.
Vaccination rates in Idaho
According to the CDC, by April 2023, only 41% of children and 36% of adults aged 18-64 in Idaho were vaccinated for the flu. These rates are well below the national averages. At the end of the 2022-23 flu season, the Department of Health and Welfare reported 72 flu-related deaths in Idaho, 13 of those in Public Health District 4, which encompasses Ada, Boise, Elmore and Valley counties.
COVID vaccines can also help prevent Long COVID or other long-term issues from COVID. According to the CDC, “In one study, the risk of cardiac complications, including myocarditis, in males 12-17 years old was 1.8 – 5.6 times higher after COVID-19 infection than after COVID-19 vaccination. Myocarditis is an inflammation of the heart and in severe cases can weaken the heart, cause abnormal heart rate, heart failure, and even death.”
Those who are most vulnerable are very young babies, older adults, and those who are immunocompromised or have certain medical conditions. According to the Idaho Division of Public Health, 60% of Idahoans have received at least one dose of a COVID vaccine, but only 25% percent have completed a primary series with a booster. This leaves 75% percent of Idaho’s population vulnerable to COVID infections.
What can you do to help? Get vaccinated to protect yourself, your loved ones, and those who are unable to get vaccinated. Stay home when you have illness symptoms, wash your hands frequently, disinfect surfaces, cover coughs and sneezes, eat healthy, and get enough sleep.
Your primary care provider or your Public District Health offer vaccines and more information. Central District Health serves Ada, Boise, Elmore, and Valley Counties and offers vaccines to people ages six weeks and older whether they are insured, underinsured or uninsured. Some individuals are eligible for vaccines at little-to-no cost depending on insurance status.
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