No two days or patients are ever alike when you’re a primary care
John M. Blumer, M.D., board-certified in family medicine, sees this in his practice at
Southeast Georgia Physician Associates-Primary Care in Brunswick.
Some of his patients follow recommended immunization guidelines for themselves
and their children. Others procrastinate; some remain unvaccinated. To
recognize National Immunization Awareness Month, Dr. Blumer wants to address
Myths and Misunderstandings
“The most common myth I hear is that vaccines make you sick. People
say, ‘The flu shot gave me the flu,’ or ‘I don’t
want to get sick, so I’ll skip the flu shot.’ Experiencing
flu-like symptoms from the flu vaccine is a normal immune response; it’s
not an actual illness. Symptoms generally subside within 24 hours,”
Dr. Blumer explains. “If you feel lousy after receiving a vaccination,
your body is doing its job – it detected a foreign substance and
generated an inflammatory response against it.”
The Pitfalls of Procrastination
During the beginning of the pandemic, many people had no choice but to
postpone age-appropriate immunizations. “A few patients got shingles
or pneumonia. Currently, I’m seeing more flu cases, which is unusual.
As far as postponed childhood vaccinations, time will tell.”
People who have diabetes, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary
disease (COPD) or another chronic disease, are especially vulnerable to
the flu, pneumonia and other illnesses. “Any infection you get triggers
a significant inflammatory response which puts you at risk for a heart
attack or stroke,” says Dr. Blumer. “If you have COPD, pneumonia
can be deadly.”
The risk of cancer increases in young people unvaccinated against the human
papilloma virus, or HPV. Measles, however, is one of Dr. Blumer’s
top concerns. “Measles is so contagious. It was declared ‘eliminated’
in the U.S. in 2000, but worldwide, it’s still out there. One in
five children with measles is hospitalized; one in 1,000 dies.”
As the disease waned, some parents grew complacent; others even held “measles
parties” to expose their children and boost their immunity. Progress
in eradicating measles slowed down for these reasons. However, the death
rate is nowhere near what it was in the pre-vaccine period when three
to four million Americans got measles every year, resulting in an estimated
400-500 deaths, according to the CDC.
The Speed of Prevention
On average, Dr. Blumer says, “it takes around 15 years and about
a billion dollars for a new vaccine to go through all the research trial
phases.” What made the COVID-19 vaccine move so fast? “The
government funded Operation Warp Speed, which removed the financial risk
of developing the vaccine in Phase 1 and Phase II trials so that vaccine
manufacturers were essentially able to go straight to Phase III.”
The Phase III trials determine whether a vaccine will prevent a particular
disease and whether it’s safe when given to thousands or tens of
thousands of participants. If trials show the vaccine is effective and
safe, it is licensed.
coronaviruses (the virus causing COVID-19) are highly contagious, scientists were studying
them for decades before the pandemic. The groundwork for an mRNA vaccine
– the kind used to combat COVID – was already in the works.
“As rapidly as the COVID vaccine developed, people thought there
wasn’t enough time to know the long-term effects. But, if you look
at previous vaccine trials, most severe side effects were detected within
the first two months after administration,” Dr. Blumer explains.
By June 2022, over 5.22 billion people worldwide had received the vaccine.
The Big Picture
“Prevention is the whole point of vaccination,” says Dr. Blumer.
Following recommended immunization schedules provides many benefits:
- Fewer missed workdays, meaning less economic impact on families, employers
- Decreased illness and death
- Decrease in serious, potentially long-term complications
When considering vaccination, “Keep your eye on the big picture.
Immunization is an easy way to protect your health and that of your family,”
Dr. Blumer says.
Vaccines have eliminated many debilitating, disfiguring and deadly diseases
in the U.S., including:
- Rubella (German measles)
- Whooping cough (pertussis)
To schedule an appointment with Dr. Blumer, call
Southeast Georgia Physician Associates-Primary Care at 912-466-5480.