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August 11
Get Ready to Respond. Get Vaccinated.
I love vaccines. I’ll just admit that up front. As an emergency responder, a military member, a doctor, and a dad, I’ve seen the value of vaccines. There are plenty of things to worry about in a disaster, including any number of vaccine-preventable diseases disaster responders can be exposed to while doing our jobs. The same is true for doctors and other healthcare providers. And dads, too, for that matter! Getting sick doesn’t have to be one of them.

Staying up-to-date on vaccinations means we’re less likely to get sick and less likely to spread illness between our co-workers, patients, family, and members of the community. And it means we’ll be ready when our community and our families need us.

There are only a few immunizations most adults in the United States need: the tetanus/diphtheria/pertussis vaccination every 10 years and a seasonal flu vaccine every year. So staying current is pretty easy. Depending on your age and health, there may be other vaccinations that would be helpful in protecting your health. Check the CDC website for general recommendations and – most importantly – talk to your doctor.

OSHA, CDC and the National Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices also recommend a Hepatitis B vaccination for health care workers who could be exposed to body fluids but aren’t already immunized against Hepatitis B (either you’ve recovered from Hepatitis B or you’ve received the vaccination in the past).

In fact, employers are required by law to provide Hepatitis B vaccine (HBV) at no cost to their full or part-time if the employees plausibly could be exposed to body fluids and are not immunized to Hepatitis B.

Military members and other people who work overseas may need additional immunizations to protect their health. If, like me, you’re in this group, talk with your doctor about what’s appropriate for where you’ll be stationed.

Remember, vaccines drive your body to make antibodies to protect you against the virus or bacteria, and that can put a drag on your body’s energy. But feeling tired, sluggish or a little sore afterward is well worth the long-term benefits, especially for emergency responders and healthcare workers. (And parents, of course!)

Think about it like this: if your body hasn’t built up immunity (by already recovering from the virus or bacteria or by getting vaccinated), and you get exposed to a vaccine-preventable disease, the circumstances must be perfect to keep you from serious illness, death, or spreading the virus or bacteria to your family, co-workers and the people you’re responsible for protecting in your community. These circumstances aren’t always present after disasters.

Those perfect circumstances are:

  1. you must recognize that you’re sick;
  2. you must have access to competent medical care;
  3. that competent healthcare provider must recognize the disease, and sometime have access to diagnostic tests;
  4. that provider must have access to comprehensive treatments;
  5. those treatments must be genuine (not counterfeit), not expired, and maintained in an appropriate environment from manufacturer to the healthcare provider; and
  6. the treatments have to be dispensed or administered in a sterile and hygienic process.

You can risk getting sick and hope those six perfect circumstances happen to occur – or you can just get a shot in advance and live healthier. Plus you’ll have the peace of mind that in a disaster you can focus what you need to be focusing on – like recovering from the incident instead of recovering from illness.

August is National Immunization Month, so it’s a perfect time to check your online electronic health record or your doctor’s records to be sure you’re up to date on your vaccinations and ready to respond when disaster strikes.

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