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I'm an Infectious Disease Doctor and This One Thing Can Save Your Life

Protecting yourself from other illnesses is key in the coronavirus battle.

With the threat of a second COVID-19 wave becoming more real by the day, the nation's top health experts are encouraging everyone to take the virus seriously and return back to the basic prevention strategies: stay home, wear a face mask when you leave it, practice diligent hand hygiene, and if you are around others, make sure to stay 6 feet apart. However, according to one of the nation's top infectious disease specialists, there is one more way that you can majorly help protect yourself and others during the coronavirus pandemic, and it involves a needle. 

Get Your Vaccines

Mahalia Desruisseaux, MD, a Yale Medicine infectious disease specialist and associate professor at Yale School of Medicine, tells Eat This, Not That! Health making sure you and your family are up to date on all your vaccinations (see the CDC's recommended schedule here) is of the utmost importance in the battle against COVID-19. Unfortunately, due to the shutdown over the last several months, many people have fallen behind. 

"The CDC recently reported that childhood vaccination rates fell sharply during stay-at-home orders. A recent report by the Commonwealth Fund also found that outpatient office visits declined by 1/3 since the start of the pandemic. Thus, a resulting drop in vaccination rates is likely to remain true during the Fall vaccination campaigns, particularly with new COVID hot spots emerging daily in different states," explains Dr. Desruisseaux.

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While a vaccine for SARS-Cov-2 is not yet available, other severe respiratory illnesses can be prevented with vaccines—including influenza and pneumonia. While these vaccines cannot prevent COVID-19, they can prevent illness and outbreaks that lead to unnecessary medical visits or hospitalizations during the COVID-19 pandemic. "With hospital systems edging close to capacity in newer hotspots, protection against vaccine-preventable diseases is absolutely vital in mitigating additional strain on overstretched health systems that are confronting surges in COVID-19 cases," she explains. "Routine vaccination against diseases caused by other vaccine-preventable infections, such as shingles, a disease which primarily affects elderly and immunosuppressed individuals who are especially vulnerable to severe disease from COVID-19, should also be maintained." 

In addition to preventing additional strain on health care systems, these vaccinations help prevent unnecessary exposure to environments where COVID-19 is present—like the hospital or doctor's office—particularly if you are at increased risk of severe COVID-19.

How to Get Vaccinated

There are two ways you can get vaccinated. "Obtaining a vaccine from your doctor's office is the ideal way to remain up to date on your vaccinations,"  states Dr. Desruisseaux. However, if you do not have a primary care physician or advanced practice provider, you may still obtain your vaccinations from your local pharmacy or influenza clinics. "Be sure to call ahead to schedule the optimal time of day when social distancing is optimal and you are at the least risk of contracting SARS-Cov-2," she suggests. "This is especially true if you are elderly, immunocompromised, or have other comorbidities which put you at risk of severe disease from SARS-Cov-2, such as heart disease, diabetes, chronic lung disease, etc." And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus.

Leah Groth
Leah Groth has decades of experience covering all things health, wellness and fitness related. Read more about Leah