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Wednesday January 11, 2017

Your Easiest New Year's Resolution for Getting Healthy: Get Vaccinated

Christmas

Year after year, according to the consumer tracking firm Nielsen, Americans’ top New Year’s resolution is to get fit and healthy. In most people’s minds, this means leaving the couch behind and getting regular exercise. It means fewer chips and sweets, and more fresh vegetables.

All of that is great. In order to enhance our health and reduce the chances of certain kinds of killers, we definitely should move more and eat better.

But there’s another New Year’s health goal, just as important and much easier to achieve. It takes just a few hours, once a year (or in the case of infants, a few times a year at doctor’s appointments that you needed to make anyway for well-baby visits). You take care of it once, and don’t have to think about it again for a year.

No peeling of carrots, no chopping celery. No additional visits to the sweaty gym. It’s one resolution that won’t fade on you as the year progresses.

It’s a simple doctor’s appointment to make certain you and your family are up to date on all needed vaccinations.

Immunization protects your family and you from diseases that cause suffering, permanent injury or even death. And here’s a bonus: There are some people who can’t be vaccinated because they have serious medical conditions weakening their immune systems. They rely on the rest of us to keep preventable illnesses out of the population; it’s called herd immunity. So if being a kinder person(#9 on the Nielsen list)  and helping the sick and vulnerable were also among your New Year’s goals, you can make progress on that one as well, by keeping others healthy through your vaccination.

Most vaccines are effective for years, and some of them for the rest of your life. The exception is the flu vaccine, which must be produced each year based on information about which flu strains are most prevalent. (Though scientists are working on fixing that as well.)

This year’s flu season has gotten off to a slower-than-usual start, which means there is still time to protect yourself from a disease that kills an average of 23,000 Americans each year. Great way to start a year of health.

Got tweens and teens? You could resolve to protect them from several kinds of cancer by taking them for their vaccines against the human papillomavirus, or HPV. There’s never been a better, easier year to do it: The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently changed the recommended schedule from three doses to two for younger teens. 

And when those teens are getting ready for college, remember that their vaccine against meningococcal disease is even more important than those extra-long sheets needed for dorm beds. College students are at particularly high risk for meningococcal disease, which can be swift and deadly.

Let’s not forget those older than 60, who should be vaccinated against painful, debilitating shingles as well as flu, which is particularly dangerous among senior citizens.

You don’t need to remember all of these details, though. Just get yourself and your loved ones to the doctor and say, what vaccines do we need at this point? Then take your needle stick and cross this healthy resolution off your 2017 list. Done. Accomplished.

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