National Immunization Awareness Month

August marks the start of National Immunization Awareness Month. Over the past few years, vaccines have been in the national spotlight more than ever before. With flu season right around the corner and COVID-19 still on the radar, getting the right vaccines at the right time is critical to making sure you and those around you stay healthy.

While immunization is important for everyone, getting vaccinated is especially important for those in the IBD community. Many IBD patients, like myself, are under treatment that suppresses or otherwise changes the immune system. This may increase our susceptibility to certain vaccine-preventable diseases like the COVID-19 or the flu. For those already dealing with a chronic condition like Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, getting the flu vaccine can provide peace of mind and protection from possible derailment of their treatment plans. In my case, keeping up with my vaccinations allows me to focus on taking care of my physical and mental health. Whether it be going to the gym, playing pickup basketball in the park, or just hanging out with friends, being vaccinated has made me feel safe to engage in all the activities that help me lead a healthy, balanced lifestyle. 

It is important for everyone to talk with their doctor about devising an appropriate vaccine schedule. In some cases, immunocompromised patients may have to delay administration of certain live vaccines like chickenpox (MMR). At the same time, non-live vaccines like the COVID-19 vaccines may require additional boosters, as their effectiveness can wane due to altered immune systems. The Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation has put together a great resource for COVID-19 information, including vaccination for IBD patients. 

As a college student and Crohn’s patient, getting vaccinated and boosted was extra important to staying safe. Not only did I keep up with the latest CDC recommendations, but I also made sure to reach out to my doctor as soon as I heard about new vaccine eligibility. I had to account for classes, projects, infusions, and other responsibilities when deciding when to get my immunizations. I remember at one point, I had to get my fourth COVID-19 shot just days before final exams started. Thankfully, my care team helped me fit my vaccines and recovery times into my busy schedule. To stay safe and successful, be sure to keep in touch with your doctors.

Vaccinations are a safe and effective way to prevent common diseases. Not only should patients get vaccinated to protect against illness that may complicate their IBD, but those around them should get them too. Preventing spread of disease from close contacts is essential in ensuring the IBD patient in your life stays safe. While figuring out which vaccines to get and when to get them can be daunting, your doctor can guide you through this process. Stay safe and have a happy National Immunization Awareness Month!