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How vaccines can protect the people you love

| Healthy You | Wellness

Family with two children, a parent and a grandparent laughing and smiling while sitting on a couch in the living room

Keeping your family current on vaccinations is important at all ages and life stages.

Some healthy habits are for every day — like getting enough rest, eating nutritious food and spending quality time with loved ones. Others only come up a few times each year — like dentist appointments, checkups with your doctor and making sure you’re current with vaccinations.

Getting your flu shots and tetanus boosters may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about a healthy lifestyle. But these and other vaccinations are a powerful way to care for the people you love, and for yourself. Staying up to date can have a big impact on the whole family’s well-being.

“Getting vaccinated is a quick, safe and easy way to lower your chances of getting sick,” says Bob Pelz, MD, PeaceHealth’s system medical director of Infection Prevention. “If you do get sick, you’ll likely experience milder symptoms if you’ve been vaccinated.”

Sticking to a vaccine schedule also limits the chances that you'll pass illnesses to friends, coworkers and vulnerable members of your community.

 If you have questions about vaccine safety, have an honest conversation with your healthcare provider. They can explain what to expect and answer your questions.

 Vaccines for babies

Babies’ immune systems aren’t fully developed, so it’s easier for them to get sick. It’s important to start their recommended vaccine series early in their lives, before they come into contact with lots of germs. 

Vaccinating your baby protects them from 14 childhood illnesses. This includes life-threatening ones like diphtheria,  and whooping cough. Some of these once-rare illnesses are appearing in our communities again, as vaccine rates slip.

Vaccines for bigger kids

School-age kids need regular vaccines to keep them safe from illnesses like polio, mumps and rubella, which used to be very common. Vaccines now keep children from getting those infections and others. In fact, vaccines save the lives of more than 4 million kids a year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Over the past 50 years, vaccines have saved 154 million lives around the globe, the World Health Organization reports.

Here are three good reasons to keep your kids current:

  1. Vaccine series. Many of the doses given to infants and toddlers need boosters and follow-ups.
  2. Vaccine updates. Some illnesses, like the flu and the COVID-19 viruses, are always changing. To be effective, these vaccines have to change, too. Updated formulas and boosters keep children’s immunity going strong.
  3. Community immunity. As kids get bigger, they may need proof of vaccination to go to school or camp, or to play sports. Keeping your kids up to date protects them and everyone else in their group activities.

Vaccines for tweens and teens

Tweens and teens are still kids, so it’s important to keep up with their regular shots and boosters. They also need a vaccine to protect them from the HPV virus. This will prevent certain cancers later in life. 

The HPV virus spreads through sexual contact. That's why pediatricians recommend the HPV vaccine series before young people potentially become sexually active.

Vaccines for adults

Almost all adults should get regular flu shots and COVID-19 boosters. You also may need occasional updates, such as tetanus boosters every 10 years. Sticking to the recommended vaccination schedule keeps you safe and protects others, too.

In some cases, a vaccine might not be right for you or a loved one. This includes during pregnancy or if you are allergic to a component of the vaccine. For instance, people with egg allergies may not be able to get a flu vaccine because eggs are a key ingredient.

If you’re in treatment for cancer or if you have an active case of an illness that a vaccine protects against, some vaccines also may not be appropriate.

In other cases, you might need additional vaccines because of your health history. “Different vaccine schedules are recommended for patients with certain underlying medical conditions like chronic lung disease, HIV or other immune suppression,” Dr. Pelz says.

To find out what vaccines you may need, ask your healthcare provider. Everyone’s personal situation is different, so let your provider know if you are pregnant, have any preexisting conditions or allergies, or plan international travel. Together, you can set up a vaccine schedule that fits your needs.

Vaccines for older adults

Older people may have weaker immune systems and need extra protection from common illnesses. Vaccines may be recommended for:  

  • Shingles. A two-dose series can prevent this painful illness that often affects people over 50.
  • Pneumonia. Vaccination lowers the chances of people over 65 getting severe cases of pneumonia.
  • RSV. Approved in 2023, this vaccine protects people over 60 from serious illness or complications related to respiratory syncytial virus, which causes cold-like symptoms.

If you are an older adult, or help care for an older adult, remember to ask which vaccinations are recommended.

Are you and your family up to date?

What shots have you and your family already gotten? What are you missing? To answer these questions, you’ll need to find your family’s vaccination records. They may be on paper or online.

Where to look:

  •  See if you have a paper copy of your records in a folder or school binder.
  • Log in to your healthcare provider's online patient portal, such as My PeaceHealth or MyChart.
  • If you got vaccinated at a pharmacy or grocery store, ask if they have your records.

Check out more tips on finding vaccination records.

After you've gathered your records, you can work with your family’s primary care provider to catch everybody up and stay on schedule. 

Dr. Pelz notes that he makes sure to get his own required doses, such as flu shots, every year. “I have a responsibility to do everything I can to protect my patients, coworkers, friends and family as much as I can.”

To talk about your vaccine needs, or to book a visit to get a needed dose, reach out to your PeaceHealth provider.

portrait of Robert K. Pelz MD

Robert K. Pelz MD

Undersea and Hyperbaric Preventive Medicine
Critical Care Medicine
Infectious Diseases
Internal Medicine
In addition to an MD he has a PhD in clinical research from Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, and he was fellowship trained in critical care medicine at the NIH. Prior to joining PHMG in 2002 Dr. Pelz practiced infectious disease and critical care medicine in Everett, Wash. Dr. Pelz is serving both as a hyperbaric medicine specialist at Riverbend and as an infectious disease specialist. His practice is open to new HIV patients as well as infectious disease consultations. He is eager to assist the medical community with infectious disease consultations, and management of chronic infectious diseases, including HIV and hepatitis.