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Benjamin Friedell, MD

There is a lot to look forward to this time of year. Many of us receive out-of-town family and enjoy gatherings with friends. Between roast turkey, sweet potato casserole, peppermint candies, eggnog, and pies of all kinds, we all have our favorite seasonal tastes. And, of course, there's a line-up of some of the most beloved holidays of the year.

What do these things have in common? They can all be ruined by a seasonal illness. Thankfully, we can protect your plans (and, more importantly, your health). Bassett Healthcare Network offers vaccines to help prevent the swarm of illnesses that circulate during respiratory illness season. It's very important to stay up-to-date with these vaccines to keep ourselves and our loved ones healthy and safe.

Here's Some Essential Information About Each of these Vaccines

Seasonal Influenza (Flu) Vaccine

Recommended for anyone over six months old. The prevalent flu variants are always changing. That's why we need a new flu shot each year and why some years the shot isn't as affective as others. However, last year's season demonstrates why flu protection is important. The '22-'23 season started out intense but then ended early as people got vaccinated.

Enhanced Flu Vaccine

This is recommended for anyone over age 65 or with a weakened immune system. It offers more robust protection than the normal flu vaccine, which is great if you need it, but most outside that range don't. If you are under 65 and wonder if you should get one, talk it over with your trusted practitioner.

RSV Vaccine

For most of us, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a passing cold. However, for infants and adults over 60, RSV can cause severe illness – and even be deadly. The vaccine is universally recommend for infants facing their first RSV season. Parents of older babies and toddlers and people over age 60 should determine with their practitioner whether they need an RSV vaccine.

Pneumococcal Vaccine

This vaccine protects against a family of bacteria that can infect various parts of your body—lungs, blood, sinuses, ears, and more. Pneumococcal vaccines can last multiple seasons. They are recommended for young children (newborn to age 5), pediatric patients with certain health conditions, and some older adults.

Shingles Vaccine

Shingles is rarely life-threatening, but it can be very painful. Its most common complication (called PHN) is long-term nerve pain that can last years after the actual infection. Since both shingles and PHN become more common with increasing age, two doses of the shingles vaccine are recommended if you are over 50, have a weakened immune system, certain medical conditions, or a past history of shingles. The shots need to be renewed about every seven years.

Updated COVID-19 Vaccine

Unfortunately, COVID-19 is still a serious concern that will be with us for many years to come. However, our knowledge of and ability to treat the disease have improved. Plus, the current variants are less likely to put healthy people in the hospital or worse. With this new footing, COVID-19 is more in line with the severity of other seasonal illnesses. Right now, it is recommended that everyone 6 months and older receive an updated COVID-19 vaccine. Children aged 6 months – 4 years old may need additional shots to protect against some of the earlier variants, and those who are moderately to severely immunocompromised will need additional boosters of the newest vaccine.

Bassett Healthcare Network can provide all of these important vaccines to you and your family. They are available to patients through their practitioner or pediatrician. Anyone aged 18 or older can also receive these vaccines at our outpatient pharmacies at Bassett Medical Center in Cooperstown and FoxCare Center in Oneonta. (We recommend you call ahead for an appointment.) If you are uninsured, the updated COVID-19 vaccine is now available for free at Bassett's Cooperstown and Oneonta outpatient pharmacies thanks to the Bridge Access Program run by the Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

No matter where you get them – as a family practice physician and jolly holiday season enthusiast, I highly recommend you stay up to date.

Visit The New York State Department of Health, Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), or American Academy of Pediatrics websites for more resources on these important preventive vaccines.

May your family enjoy a happy and healthy holiday season!

Dr. Benjamin Friedell is Bassett Healthcare Network's Regional Chief of Primary Care for the Oneonta area.

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