The push to get COVID-19 vaccines to more and more people is among the most pressing issues facing medical professionals and public health officials, many of whom say that getting the vast majority of the population vaccinated is the best path toward ending a pandemic that has lasted for 18 months.
A doctor with Memorial Hermann Health System, which operates Memorial Herman Greater Heights Hospital at 1635 North Loop West, said it’s also important to stay up-to-date on other vaccines, such as the seasonal influenza shot.
Dr. Annamaria Macaluso Davidson recommends the flu shot for both adults and children during the winter months, along with the pneumonia vaccine for adults age 65 and older, as well as the DTap shot – for diphtheria, tetanus and acellular pertussis – for adults who expect to be around newborns or babies.
“Certainly a lot of focus is on COVID and ending the pandemic and keeping people well and getting them vaccinated, but we definitely do not want to neglect our health outside of COVID,” Davidson said. “Among adults and even pediatric patients, vaccination rates (for other conditions) are down. Folks have not stayed on top of normal, annual wellness exams. Those are important for many reasons.”
Davidson, the vice president of employee health medical operations for Memorial Hermann, touched on the importance of monitoring a range of non-COVID medical issues during an interview with The Leader. And she said maintaining mental health is just as critical as physical health, especially since living during a pandemic can be particularly stressful for children and their parents as well as the workforce in general.
Community members with chronic medical conditions such as diabetes or hypertension should keep checkup appointments with their physicians, Davidson said, to ensure those conditions are being properly managed and that they are taking the right medications in the right doses.
She said regular health screenings, blood work and eye exams are equally important, since problems could arise without necessarily presenting symptoms.
And if residents are worried about contracting COVID-19 from a visit to a doctor or clinic, Davidson said they should not be. Telehealth visits also are available from many healthcare providers.
“We at Memorial Hermann are doing a really nice job of making sure our clinical offices and the hospitals are safe and clean. We know it’s important,” Davidson said. “I think they can feel confident coming into in-person visits for care and treatment.”
With summer giving way to fall, Davidson said keeping tabs on skin care also is a must at this time of year. Many community members may have spent significant time in the sun either while traveling to a beach, lake or river or by swimming or laying out by a pool.
So if any new moles are noticed on the skin, Davidson said it’s important to have them checked out to make sure they are not cancerous.
“We just came off of summer, which hopefully felt a little more normal as folks could get out and be in the sun and do stuff,” she said. “Follow up with a dermatologist and make sure.”
Per a request made by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott in early August, after the delta variant of COVID-19 caused a significant spike in cases and hospitalizations throughout the state, many hospitals suspended elective medical procedures that could be postponed without causing a loss of life or deterioration in a patient’s condition, in order to preserve hospital bed capacity.
But doctor visits, checkups and necessary treatments have continued and will continue.
“We don’t want folks neglecting their care,” Davidson said.