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Flu, pneumonia vaccines always important
Health advice
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As we age, we become more susceptible to serious diseases caused by common infections such as the flu or pneumonia. This susceptibility also means that we are more prone to complications. Each year, more than 65,000 American adults die from vaccine-preventable diseases or their complications. Pneumonia and flu (grouped together) are the fifth-leading cause of death among older adults. That is one reason Medicare Part B pays for influenza and pneumococcal shots.
Some adults believe vaccines received during childhood offer protection for their whole lives. And a lot of the time this is true, but there are exceptions.
Some adults were never vaccinated as children and others only received a few vaccinations because not all vaccines were available at that time. And while immunity will last for many years, some can begin to fade over time.
Influenza is expected to kill thousands of people in the United States again this year. The vaccine is available to anyone who wants to reduce their chances of catching the flu and its complications.
Parents are encouraged to get their children immunized this year. Complications and death are also risks among children, and children are often more succeptible to the disease because of their close contact with other children in school.
Most people need one flu shot a year. Children younger than 9 who are receiving their flu shot for the first time should receive two shots one month apart. Regardless of age, it is necessary to get a flu shot every year. Influenza viruses are known to mutate often and this necessitates that the vaccine be updated yearly to cover these changes.  
Vaccine for the H1N1 virus should be available around the middle of October. Prevention for this virus is the same as for other diseases — wash your hands frequently and thoroughly. It is also important to stay away from sick people and stay home when you are sick. Hopefully at this point, everyone knows to sneeze into a tissue or your elbow so you won’t contaminate door knobs and surfaces.
Cases of the new H1N1 virus have ranged from mild to severe. While most people who have been sick have recovered without needing medical treatment or hospitalization, deaths from infection with this virus have occurred.
Pneumococcal disease is another example of a very serious disease that can be prevented through adult immunizations. Pneumonia can cause many complications and result in death. In fact, this disease kills more people in the United States each year than all other vaccine-preventable diseases combined. Treatment of pneumococcal infections has become more difficult and prevention of the disease through vaccination is even more important. About one out of every 20 people who get pneumococcal pneumonia dies from it.
The pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine protects against 23 types of pneumococcal bacteria and usually requires only one dose for immunity. Second booster doses are required under certain circumstances and for some people who have specific health conditions. Boosters are generally given every six years.
Local health departments have started administering flu and pneumonia vaccines, and residents can take advantage of drive-through clinics where everything is administered as you sit in your car. Liberty County will host a drive-through immunization clinic today from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. at James A. Brown Park and tomorrow from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at the Coastal EMC parking lot in Midway. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call the health department or a health-care provider.

Ratcliffe is a consultant to the Coastal Health District. You can call her at 876-6399.
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