Arm Your Immune Response with Routine Protection Against Disease

By Cher Thomas, RDH

It’s 2020, and we’re approaching mid-December, the time of year when we’d normally be making plans for holiday gatherings and gift exchanges. But this year, COVID 19 is throwing a major wrench into what we consider “normal” plans. How else might we top this crazy year?

I’ve had my kidney transplant for 21 years and during that time I’ve made sure to prioritize my health. But this year, with all the news about a COVID vaccine, I began wondering about the status of my own vaccinations. I am 55 years old now—the age at which colonoscopies, eye exams, dental care, and more, are increasingly important!

Despite COVID, we must keep up with our healthcare routine. And so I called my transplant center to verify my vaccination record. I’d fallen behind, so I needed to get caught up. The last time I was vaccinated against pneumonia was in 2004! I am also at an age when healthcare providers recommend the shingles vaccine.  I made an appointment with my local pharmacist who gave me the pneumonia and shingles vaccines. My arms were sore for the remainder of the day, but at least I am current now, that is until I must get the second shingles vaccine.

I’ve also delayed getting additional routine care, so I plan to call my primary care provider and my transplant team to determine which exams cannot be delayed any longer. With their knowledge of my medical history, together with the local COVID positivity rate, they will guide me in the safest course for my care. I’ve already participated in several telehealth appointments this year, and those have been helpful, and very convenient. Surprisingly, they removed a lot of stress I may otherwise have felt even before COVID, such as trying to get to my appointment on time, determining how much time I needed to set aside, and what I should wear.

In addition to our “kidney care,” all of the other routine care that comes along with living a healthy lifestyle must not be neglected.

Routine vaccinations for adults may include Adult Immunization Schedule by Vaccine and Age Group | CDC:

  • Influenza (Flu) – every year
  • Tetanus – every 10 years
  • Zoster Recombinant (Shingles) – 2 series of vaccines after age 50
  • Pneumococcal 13 or 23 (Pneumonia)

Recommendations regarding the frequency of routine checkups are based on age, risk factors, and one’s current health status. Your healthcare providers can tell you what is best for you, and at what age to have them health_maintenance_guidelines.pdf (

See your …

  • Primary care provider at least annually after age 50, unless you have a chronic illness such as CKD, diabetes, or hypertension
  • Dermatologist annually unless you are determined to be at a higher risk
  • Gastroenterologist after 50 to get your first colonoscopy or sooner if you have certain chronic illnesses, a first degree relative with colon cancer, or symptoms of GI problems
  • Gynecologist for mammograms/pelvic exams as recommended by your medical team
  • Primary care provider for a prostate check at the age of 50, or earlier if you are at a high risk for problems

If you are over 65 …

  • Get a bone density test every two years or sooner if you are at a high risk for osteoporosis

Obviously, if you have diabetes, hypertension, primary kidney disease, an autoimmune disease, or a genetic disease, these conditions should be addressed annually, or more frequently if you are medically unstable or at a high risk Preventive care benefits for adults |

This isn’t the typical “seasonal list” that we find enjoyable; however, the time we dedicate to our own healthcare will improve our chances of enjoying a higher quality of life, which provides true happiness during the holiday season. May good health be your gift this year!

More articles and podcasts about vaccines:

A Shot Worth Getting By Wendy Rodgers, M.Ed.

Don’t Bug Me! Understanding Infectious Disease, KidneyTalk® Podcast with Phillip Zakowski, MD

Cher-ThomasCher Thomas, RDHis a registered dental hygienist and a renal transplant recipient. After her kidneys failed due to ANCA positive vasculitis, in 1999 her brother became her kidney donor. Cher utilizes her experience with peritoneal dialysis and organ transplantation to explore the relationship between oral and renal health. She lives in Galveston, Texas.

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