SIMEDHealth

Immunization with Dr. Kamal Singh

Classes resume for fall semester, and the flu season is right behind it. August is Immunization Awareness Month and we heard from Dr. Kamal Singh about vaccines. 

 

Vaccines train the body to fight an invasion without developing significant illness. When the body is exposed to foreign pathogens, such as viruses or bacteria, the immune system produces antibodies allowing it to defend itself. “These antibodies attack the invading pathogens, also known as an antigens, and protect against further infection”, says Dr. Kamal Singh, a SIMEDHealth Primary Care Internal Medicine physician.

When facing the invader for the first time, there is a delay of sometimes days between the body’s exposure to the invader (antigen) and developing the antibody attack response. “For severe antigens like the measles virus or the Pertussis whopping cough bacteria, a few days delay is too long”, emphasizes Dr. Singh. “The infection can rapidly spread throughout the body, before the immune system can fight back. Unfortunately, this delay can sometimes result in death.”

Every year millions of healthy adults and children are given vaccines to prevent serious diseases. In the United States available vaccines go through many years of rigorous testing prior to being made available to the public, including:

  • Multiple levels of clinical trials determining the vaccine’s effectiveness, tolerability and safety.
  • Food and Drug Administration (FDA) evaluation and review of the data, and upon the FDA’s approval, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) must go through its own evaluation, review and approval process.
  • Infants, children, adults, and senior citizens are evaluated and reviewed separately, as are males, females, and more recently ethnicity, race, and social determinants of health to best determine the vaccine’s effect, tolerance, and safety in these subgroups.
  • Even after FDA and CDC approval, the vaccine production facility continues to submit reports to the FDA on the quality and safety of the vaccine, to ensure the vaccine continues to meets the required standards.

“The U.S. has one of the most advanced systems in the world for tracking vaccine safety”, says Dr. Singh.

Many people, especially new parents can be overwhelmed with keeping up with immunizations. Dr. Singh reports, "Vaccine schedules have been developed by the CDC, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Academy of Family Physicians covering all current vaccine guidelines." Vaccinations keep you, your family, and others safe from potentially deadly diseases by significantly decreasing or eliminating the severity and spread of disease.

Some vaccines have precautions associated with them. “ Dr. Singh explains, “these are things which may happen in some subgroups of people, however the benefit of receiving the vaccine may still outweigh the precaution consequences, and the vaccine can be received. A contraindication, however is a very specific situation in which the vaccine will likely result in more harm to the person, than the benefit expected to be received.” He continues, “while all vaccines have precautions and contraindications, they are usually only applicable to a very small number of people, and vaccines overall are generally very well tolerated. Some precautions and contraindications are only for very brief periods of time, and the vaccination can safely be received once the period has lapsed”

If you have questions about vaccines and the appropriate vaccine schedule for you or your loved one, contact your Primary Care physician or advanced care provider who can discuss the details with you.

Staying Physically and Mentally Healthy This Winter

With hundreds of thousands of vaccines being administered per day, the end of COVID-19 feels near. But it is further away than we think, and it’s never been more critical to prevent unnecessary illness. We talked to Primary Care Physician Jenny Chen, MD, about what we can all do to stay physically and mentally healthy during this winter season.

What are the main things Dr. Chen recommends for staying physically healthy? “Wash your hands. Though the main mode of transmission for COVID-19 is respiratory droplets, washing your hands especially after being in public is vital.” If you do need to go out in public, stay away from large crowds and stay six feet away from others. Dr. Chen says, “Wear a mask when you go outside. And stay up to date on your vaccinations, including your flu shot. And when it is available to you, get the COVID-19 vaccine.” Following these tips will keep you healthy and protect the health of your loved ones and society as a whole.

Why are wearing masks so important, in any case? Dr. Chen responds, “Masks may be cumbersome for some of us to wear, but they give us protection from getting COVID-19 by blocking some of the spread of respiratory droplets. More importantly, if a sick person who has a cough is wearing a mask, then the mask decreases the chance the sick person will spread the virus to you.”

As vaccinations start to be circulated, it may feel unnecessary to get one for yourself when everyone around you has one. Dr. Chen disagrees, “The vaccines currently available are over 90% effective, but not 100% effective. Although less likely, it is still possible for a person who is vaccinated to catch the virus and spread it to you. Also, it is not possible to know in public that everyone around you is vaccinated. If you go to the grocery store, there might be other people there who are not vaccinated. You can help stop the spread by greatly reducing the chances you will be a carrier yourself if you get vaccinated.”

Not being able to do all the things people want to do has been tough on many people. Any tips for how to mentally stay fit during this period? Dr. Chen advises, “Exercise gives you a boost of endorphins and can help you stay mentally healthy. Also, any form of social contact can help. Make a point to talk to your loved ones regularly, even if it’s only through the phone or Zoom.” She adds, “Consider starting a gratitude journal. Every day making a list of things you are thankful for. Doing this simple task has been shown to lessen symptoms of depression for some people. If you are feeling overwhelmed by your depression or anxiety, if it is interfering with your daily life, it is important to seek professional help.”

Lastly, Dr. Chen adds, “This is hard to predict, but some experts believe that if we all do our part and enough people get vaccinated, we can get back to some normalcy by the end of 2021. Pandemics have happened throughout human history, and they did not stay forever. The virus may be around for a while beyond 2021, but daily new cases may drop to a very low level by that time. There is a light at the end of the tunnel once we get through this winter.”

Click here to schedule an appointment with Dr. Chen.