BATON ROUGE, La. – The coronavirus and the disease it causes, COVID-19, has been the main healthcare topic on everyone’s minds for the majority of 2020. But, it’s important to stay on top of your usual healthcare needs, including wellness visits with your primary care doctor. One crucial part of your regular check-up is asking your doctor if you are up to date on vaccines to prevent illnesses. While many think of vaccines as a routine part of children’s healthcare, it’s also important for adults to get shots to prevent seasonal flu and other illnesses.
August is National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM). This annual observance highlights the efforts of healthcare professionals to protect patients of all ages against vaccine-preventable diseases through on-time vaccination.
One illness that adults, particularly those 60 or older, should ask their doctors about preventing with a vaccine is shingles. According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 1 million cases of shingles occur annually in the United States. Older adults and people with compromised or suppressed immune systems are more likely to get hospitalized for complications of shingles.
“Shingles is an illness caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox,” said Dr. Jeremy Wigginton, a medical director for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana. “This virus lies dormant in your body, in the areas near your spine, and can come out and cause problems. Anyone who’s had the chickenpox can get shingles. This is true for people of all ages, even children, but your risk of shingles increases as you get older. And, older adults are at a higher risk of serious complications from shingles.”
Dr. Wigginton explains why it’s important to be aware of the shingles virus and vaccination options in this video (1:47).
While routine vaccination is always important to protect individuals and communities from vaccine-preventable diseases and outbreaks, it is critical during the COVID-19 pandemic. Routine vaccination prevents illnesses that can lead to additional medical visits and hospitalizations, which place further strain on the healthcare system.
Heading into the later part of the year, it’s also important to ask your doctor about the annual flu shot. The CDC recommends everyone six months and older get a flu shot, unless they have medical conditions that prevent them from being vaccinated. It’s especially important for older adults, young children, pregnant women and people who have long-term conditions like heart disease, asthma or diabetes to get a flu shot because they are at a higher risk for severe complications.
Flu vaccination rates for the 2018-2019 flu season were 62.6% among children and 45.3% among adults. Given that this year, flu season will overlap with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it is very important that everyone eligible get a flu shot. The vaccines typically become available in late September, and people who work in healthcare or other high-risk settings are usually encouraged to get vaccinated earlier than others. Ask your doctor about the 2020 flu shot and when you should be vaccinated.
Most health plans and Medicare plans cover the annual flu shot at low or $0 out-of-pocket costs and provide coverage for other standard vaccines. These vaccines are usually available at doctor’s offices, clinics and pharmacies. Contact Customer Service at the number on your ID card to ask about providers in your plan’s network and what you would pay out of pocket for a shingles vaccine or other vaccine you need.
“Talk to your primary care doctor about whether you should get a shingles vaccine and which vaccine type is right for you, and ask about any other vaccinations you should have, depending on your age and health history,” Wigginton said.
All year long, you can visit the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana YouTube page to see short videos with the clinical team and others on health topics, monthly wellness observances and more. Subscribe to know when new videos are added. You can also connect with Blue Cross on social media for regular updates on health topics.
About Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana is committed to our mission to improve the health and lives of Louisianians. We invest both time and money in the health and wellbeing of Louisiana communities by supporting more than 200 charitable organizations through volunteer service, board participation, employee giving and focused grantmaking.
Our commitment to corporate citizenship was recognized in 2019 and 2020 by Points of Light, the world’s largest organization dedicated to volunteer service. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana was honored as one of The Civic 50: the 50 most community-minded companies in the United States.
With our subsidiaries, HMO Louisiana and Southern National Life, we cover 1.8 million members, providing group and individual health insurance plans, life and disability insurance, group voluntary products and administrative services. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana also provides Medicare supplement and Medicare Advantage plans and is a partner in offering the Healthy Blue Medicaid managed care plan.
Founded in New Orleans in 1934, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana is a tax-paying nonprofit health insurer. We are a private mutual company, owned by our policyholders, with an independent Louisiana Board of Directors and no shareholders. Louisiana is the only state where we operate, with headquarters in Baton Rouge and offices in every major region to serve our customers. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.