by Cory Offutt, MD, Phelps Health
Why are vaccines important?
Dr. Cory Offutt, a family medicine physician with the Phelps Health Medical Group, says vaccines are important because they protect those with weaker immune systems, as well as the community as a whole.
How are vaccines studied and improved upon?
“We have vaccines because we see outbreaks of viruses like [the one that causes] COVID-19,” he said. “It’s important to remember that all vaccines go through very extensive research studies to ensure they’re safe for the public.”
Why is it important that people get vaccines?
Dr. Offutt said that vaccinations are important to help prevent the spread of infections. “The more people that we have in the population that are vaccinated, the less likely that an infection is to spread to people that aren’t vaccinated. If you have a certain percentage of the population that is vaccinated, it’s called herd immunity and it protects the population. According to Johns Hopkins, herd immunity usually calls for 70%-90% of the population to be vaccinated in order to achieve proper herd immunity.”
Will getting a vaccine give me a virus?
Generally, vaccines don’t actually give you the virus for which you are being vaccinated. “For example, the flu shot doesn’t give you the flu. The symptoms you have when you get a flu shot are the result of your immune system being triggered to create antibodies,” Dr. Offutt said. “When you get the flu shot, it takes several weeks to develop antibodies in order to fight off the virus, so you may develop the flu before you actually have enough antibodies to fight off the virus. If you get the flu, you most likely got it before you developed enough antibodies to fight it off.”
After getting the flu shot, I feel achy and sore. Is this the flu?
No. It’s your body’s natural inflammatory response to being exposed to something new. It’s an appropriate response, and those mild symptoms should only last for a couple of days.
Why aren’t vaccines always 100% effective?
Because everyone’s immune system is different, a vaccine may not always be 100% effective. Dr. Offutt said staying healthy through proper diet and exercise can help make sure that our immune systems are able to mount a proper immune response to vaccines.
Why is it so important to take viruses seriously?
“All viruses should be taken seriously. For example, the virus that causes chickenpox, varicella-zoster, can cause severe issues such as seizures, encephalitis (inflammation of the brain), permanent scarring, nerve damage and brain damage,” Dr. Offutt said.
Why do babies have to get so many shots at once?
Following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations, shots are administered a certain number of months apart to mount the optimum amount of antibody production. “There is often a concern about doing too many shots at once, but our bodies produce enough antibodies to respond to over 10,000 different incoming offenders, such as viruses, at one time,” he said. “Having a few vaccines at once will not overwhelm a body’s immune system because the immune system is constantly fighting things off.”
Why do we get vaccines as adults?
“We get vaccines as adults to continue to protect our bodies from viruses that could cause us harm, such as shingles, also called herpes zoster,” said Dr. Offutt. According to the CDC, shingles is a reactivation of the varicella virus that causes chickenpox. It is extremely painful and can cause blindness, permanent pain or nerve damage.
How do I know when to get a vaccine for myself or a loved one?
Your healthcare provider should let you know, but the CDC also has guidelines for when vaccines should be administered.
Schedule an Appointment
Vaccines are safe, effective and essential tools to keep you and your family healthy and free of infectious diseases. Reach out to your provider to help answer vaccination questions and determine the best course of action.
You also can watch Episode 12 of The Scope, where Dr. Cory Offutt discusses vaccines.
Cory Offutt, MD, is a family medicine physician who joined the Phelps Health Medical Group in July 2019. Dr. Offutt will see patients at the Phelps Health Medical Group at 600 Blues Lake Parkway in Rolla. Dr. Offutt is board-certified in family medicine. His special interests include pediatrics, women’s health, rural healthcare, sports medicine, and adult and pediatric ADD/ADHD. Dr. Offutt can see both children and adult patients. Dr. Offutt grew up in Lebanon, Missouri.
Dr. Offutt also offers Telehealth visits, which allow patients to visit him remotely using their smartphone with audio and video capabilities.