Vaccines: more than just a one-time deal

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Amanda Dick
  • 86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
With the beginning of the school year right around the corner and flu season starting in October, there is no better time than now to get vaccinated.

That is why the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention recognizes August as National Immunization Awareness Month. But awareness doesn't stop in August as there are always diseases, no matter the time of year.

A perfect example is the worldwide outbreak of the H1N1 virus this spring that infected thousands worldwide, which is reported to potentially resurge in the fall.

"Military members and their families travel. We go to Egypt and to the Caribbean," said Staff Sgt. Renae McCoy, 86th Medical Operations Squadron immunizations technician NCOIC. "We're going to different countries that are exposed to different diseases."

Though this time of year typically brings a focus on the flu vaccine, and the outbreak of H1N1 has brought attention to a potential new vaccine, it is important for people to stay current with all types of vaccines to ensure they're lowering their risk for infection.

"If you don't get vaccinated, your risks of getting the actual disease are higher," Sergeant McCoy said. "So, in order to prevent you from agonizing pain, outbreaks, rashes and possibly fatal death, the vaccine is your best choice."

Anthrax, cervical cancer, Hepatitis A and B, Influenza, Lyme disease, Measles and Mumps are just a few of the vaccine-preventable diseases.

It is important for everyone to know what types of vaccines they need and when to help out their bodies, according to CDC experts.

Why vaccinate regularly

Because of the immune system, our bodies have the ability to fight foreign germs, or antigens, with antibodies the system creates. Once antibodies fight off the antigens, they disappear but the cells involved remain in the system and become "memory cells."

"Memory cells remember the original antigen and then defend against it when the antigen attempts to re-infect the person, even after many decades," a recent CDC release stated. "This protection is called immunity."

Vaccines given to people have the same antigens, or parts of it, but in vaccines they are killed or weakened. The vaccines are injected into fatty tissue or muscle, so they are not strong enough to create symptoms or signs of the disease, but they are strong enough for the immune system to fight off. The memory cells that remain defend the body when it comes across the disease in the future.

But not all vaccines last for long periods of time.

"People should stay current on their vaccinations because you could have gotten the flu shot last season, but that does not mean the vaccine is going to protect you this season," Sergeant McCoy said. "That's why it's important for you to get your annual flu shot or your tetanus shot when it's past 10 years, because even if you got it one time, your body loses immunity over years, over time."

Flu mist and shots

The immunization clinic is now offering the flu mist to active-duty members and will be going around to squadrons, administering the mist soon. Around October, after the clinic has received the injectable shots, military family members can begin to receive their flu shots.

Although the peak of the flu season is from October through March, the immunization clinic will administer flu mist and shots between the months of August and June.


According to a recent report from the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, the H1N1 flu virus could cause up to 90,000 U.S. deaths if it resurges this fall.

Medical officials remind personnel and their families, that while the flu vaccine will help mitigate normal flu systems, it is not the solution for preventing infection from the H1N1 virus. However, individuals can use some of the same preventative measures to lower their risk of contamination.
The Air Force Surgeon General reminds all Airmen that easy, everyday actions can help keep you healthy and recommends following common-sense CDC guidelines to prevent the spread of H1N1: cover the nose and mouth when sneezing and coughing to limit the spread of germs, avoid contact with individuals who are sick and practice good personal hygiene like frequent hand washing.

If you think you have been exposed to someone with H1N1 or are experiencing H1N1 symptoms, contact your healthcare provider at the 86th Medical Group at DSN 479-2273 or commercial at 06371-46-2273.

For more information on symptoms, immunizations and how to keep up-to-date, visit the Ramstein immunization clinic or the CDC's Web site at