Holy Name Medical Center Blog

It’s Time to Get Back on Track with All Your Vaccines

Posted by Caridad M. Iparraguirre, MD
Family Medicine Specialist, Holy Name Medical Partners on August 27, 2021
Caridad M. Iparraguirre, MD

Information about COVID-19 vaccines continues to dominate the news, but your entire vaccine portfolio deserves your attention as we enter the fall season.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is now recommending an additional dose (under the Emergency Use Authorization) for people who have been vaccinated with mRNA vaccines (Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna) and whose immune systems are compromised – such as those undergoing cancer treatment or patients who have had organ or stem cell transplants.

On August 23, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted full approval to Pfizer’s vaccine, now known as Comirnaty®, for ages 16 and above. Moderna's vaccine is currently under review by the FDA for full approval, which could be announced in the next weeks to months.

Booster doses of the mRNA vaccines for the general population are expected to be approved and recommended with doses made available as early as September 20, starting with those at highest risk who were the first to receive COVID-19 vaccines in December 2020.

Additional doses of the J&J/Janssen vaccine are not recommended at this time. Remember that this vaccine did not become available until March, and more information is needed before booster doses would be recommended.

Of course, everyone over 12 years of age who has not yet received initial COVID vaccines is urged to receive this life-saving protection as soon as possible.*

All Your Vaccines Need Attention

It also is important for you and your family to keep up to date on other routine immunizations to stay healthy. Pandemic lockdowns and fears have led to a significant decline in routine health maintenance, including preventive screenings and vaccinations.

Children are generally current with their vaccines because they are needed for school, but some adults lag in keeping up with these important regimens. It’s time to get back on track. COVID is not the only infectious disease stalking us.

Flu Shots are Here, and More

The annual influenza vaccine will be available at doctors’ offices and at Holy Name’s PharmaCare retail pharmacy within our medical center in September. It is best to get your shot early in the flu season – by the end of September, if possible. The flu can be deadly; you can still come down with the flu even if you are immunized, however, it likely will be less severe.

The CDC recommends a flu vaccine for everyone over age 6 months, with some rare exceptions. It is especially important for the elderly, pregnant women, or those with poor health or chronic conditions, such as asthma or diabetes.

We also recommend these other vaccines for adults:

  • Tdap and its boosters Every adult should get a Tdap vaccine to protect against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (whooping cough), and then a booster every 10 years, or after five years in case you experience a severe or dirty wound or burn. Pregnant women should get a Tdap vaccine each time they are pregnant, preferably at 27 through 36 weeks into the pregnancy, according to the CDC.
  • The HPV vaccine protects against the types of human papillomaviruses that cause most cervical, anal, and other cancers, as well as genital warts. The CDC recommends HPV vaccination for everyone through age 26. But some adults may decide to get HPV vaccines through age 45 after assessing the risks and benefits with their doctors.
  • The pneumonia vaccine is recommended for adults over 65 and those younger who have chronic conditions, such as asthma and diabetes, or a long-term history of smoking.
  • The two-dose shingles vaccine protects against this viral infection that causes a painful rash and other complications. It is recommended for healthy adults over 50, since they are most prone to the disease. Shingles affects those who had chicken pox earlier in life; the virus stays dormant in the body and can reactivate to cause shingles.

Mighty Vaccines

Other vaccines may be recommended for adults because of job or school-related requirements, health conditions, travel, or other factors. For example, some states require college students be vaccinated against meningitis due to increased risks from living in dorms. A meningitis vaccine also may be recommended if traveling to some other countries, as might shots for hepatitis, cholera, and typhoid.

Your primary care doctor should have a list of all your vaccinations and recommendations for what might still be needed. Remember to discuss this during your annual physical exam or next doctor’s appointment.

It is also smart to take a photo of your vaccine record and keep it on your phone. This might come in particularly handy in places like New York City, where proof of COVID vaccinations are needed for access to restaurants, entertainment venues, Broadway theaters, and gyms.

Maintaining a lifestyle that includes a healthy diet and regular exercise can boost your immune system, but vaccines are essential in preventing serious illness and death. In medicine, it is best not to play catch-up to disease.

Up-to-date immunizations are an important part of preventive health and protect you and the community. Life-saving vaccines are readily available; there’s no reason to wait. Talk to your doctor.

Caridad Iparraguirre, MD, practices family medicine with an emphasis on women’s health. To schedule an appointment with her at her North Bergen office or through telemedicine, call 201-351-3177 or visit HolyNameMedicalPartners.org.

Pfizer-BioNTech first-dose, second-dose, and third-dose vaccines (for immunocompromised people only) are available at Holy Name's sites in Teaneck, West New York, Oradell, and Paramus. Moderna's third-dose vaccine for immunocompromised people and the J&J vaccine (one dose) are available in Teaneck only. To schedule: holyname.org/covid19/vaccine-registration.aspx. Walk-ins will be accommodated if supplies last.

Other adult vaccinations are available at Holy Name's PharmaCare retail pharmacy inside the medical center. Call 201-530-7991 for more information.

*Special thanks to Nancy Palamara, PharmD, Holy Name’s vice president of diagnostics and therapeutics, for her up-to-date information on COVID vaccines.