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Boomer Unchained: It’s Vaccine Season

Seniors need more than just the flu shot

I had my annual health checkup a few weeks ago, the one that Medicare says you have to have. It wasn’t a big deal. I always enjoy going to my primary care doctor, Jeff Hawtof, MD. He’s been my doctor since 2003, and so going to see him is like visiting a good friend. And of course, he knows my medical history, which makes the visit all the easier.

That day he reminded that it was time for my flu shot, a comment I expected. I am a believer in flu shots, especially after working in marketing at Beebe and learning how serious it can be for older and sicker patients to have their chronic conditions complicated by flu. A hospitalized older person can develop a serious case of pneumonia when a visitor inadvertently exposes him or her to flu. That is why in the middle of a flu outbreak children are not allowed to visit patients.

People who don’t get the shot put others at risk.  And, according to CDC statistics, the flu shots prevent flu up to 60 percent of the time. While many people say the shot gave them the flu, there is no evidence that proves the shot causes the flu. On the other hand, there is evidence that flu kills people. For sure it makes you feel awful for a long time, and exacerbates conditions like asthma and COPD.

Off that soapbox. We are either believers or non-believers.

What Other Vaccines Might You Need?

What I didn’t expect was for Dr. Hawtof to tell me was it was time for a tetanus vaccination. My medical records showed that it had been 10 years since I had one. He told me that if I went to my local pharmacy, the pharmacist could give me both shots. Most of the time (but not all) I do what he tells me to do.

At Rite Aid, I filled out a bunch of paperwork and learned that the flu shot was free, but that the tetanus shot would cost me $57. I can’t even begin to figure out why, or which insurance, Medicare, Blue Cross, or Humana, paid for only a portion of the cost. With the change in medical insurance since I retired a few months ago, I haven’t quite figured out who pays for what and how much they pay. Luckily, there hasn’t been much to pay for, so I haven’t wanted to delve into the ins and outs of insurance.

The pharmacist asked me which arm I wanted him to jab. My choices were one shot in each are, or both in one.

“One guy said to give him one in each because he didn’t want to ruin his tennis arm,” the pharmacist told me. From that I surmised I wasn’t the only patient who was advised to get a tetanus shot as long as I was getting a flu one.

I decided to get one shot in each arm. The Rite Aid pharmacist was a pro and I didn’t feel either.

Educate Yourself on Vaccines

Once home, I read the marketing information on both vaccinations. I was surprised to see that the tetanus one was the same as what I had received as a child – diptheria/tetanus/whooping cough.  I haven’t yet called Dr. Hawtof to find out if I was supposed to be vaccinated against diptheria. However, I know that it is important for older people, especially grandparents, to get vaccinated against whooping cough.

Whooping cough? Since 2010, up to 20 babies each year have died from whooping cough, according to the CDC.

Back to the non-believers. Some parents are not giving children vaccinations, and whooping cough, which can kill a baby, is showing up again. The worst recent year was 2012 when there were 48,000 cases of whooping cough in the United States. In 2015, there were fewer, nearly 21,000 cases, according to the CDC. I couldn’t find last year’s finalized statistics so I’m not sure they are available. But, you get the picture.

Grandparents can give their grandchildren whooping cough without even knowing it. So, please get that shot, too, if you doctor advises you to. As for me, just in case I get any grandchildren, I am prepared.

Susan Towers, 2020

Susan Towers

Susan L. Towers, M.S., retired from Beebe’s Marketing & Communications department in 2017 to pursue her writing, and to experience new adventures with friends and family. She has published stories in Delaware Beach Life magazine, as well as two fiction short stories in anthologies. She is member of the Rehoboth Beach Writers Guild and the American /Society of Journalists and Authors. She is an advocate of the arts and humanities, and is passionate about the outdoors.