In an 1887 essay, the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche observed that “the sick are the greatest danger to the healthy.“ In today’s world that may still ring true, if not for the existence of vaccines that offer protection from a host of infectious diseases.
This year’s batch of the flu vaccine is now available to doctors’ offices and pharmacies. Most people who have a chronic medical condition or are in regular contact with someone at risk will be eligible to have the vaccine administered free of charge. It is part of a publicly funded immunization program that includes vaccination against pneumococcal disease and human papillomavirus.
A single shot with the pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine offers long-term protection against some of the bacteria that cause pneumonia, blood poisoning, middle-ear infections or meningitis. It is available free to adults with serious long-term health problems and to everyone 65 and older.
Human papillomavirus vaccines offer protection from infection that causes about 70% of cervical cancers. One of the vaccines, Cervarix(HPV2) is currently available free to women born in 1994 or later who missed getting the Gardasil (HPV4) vaccine. ImmunizeBC recommends the HPV4 vaccine for adult women up to 45 years of age and males 9 to 26.
While this season’s influenza vaccine contains the same strains as last year, the protection does decline significantly over time, so that it is important to be re-vaccinated every year. It is even more important for those who have never had a flu shot. Doctors will tell you that otherwise healthy people do get viral infections, even requiring hospitalization. High participation rates are the key to success with these immunizations.