It is often difficult for me to convince my patients to take their seasonal and booster vaccines. I would like to discuss the most common and needed vaccines for adults and what the scheduled time should be for best control and prevention. A chronic condition like diabetes should include proper vaccines since your immunity may be decreased.
- Influenza shot – According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, influenza and its complications kill more than 40,000 individuals in the U.S. each year. Influenza also accounts for over 10,000 hospitalizations yearly. The flu shot can decrease the risk of influenza up to 90%. The flu season extends from September-February. It is recommended by the C.D.C. to receive the flu vaccine yearly, in the beginning of the fall season. The shot contains inactive virus and therefore does not give you the flu. It takes about two weeks to be covered and you may still get the flu during this time period. This is not from the shot; you are just not protected yet. If you do get a slight fever or feel achy, it is because your body is forming antibodies to fight off the flu infection; it is not the flu. A contraindication to the flu shot is allergy to eggs or previous anaphylactic shock. You may check on www.cdc.gov to see if you have a contraindication. The flu shot for the 2011 season will contain H1N1 so there will be no need for 2 separate shots. Do not get the flu shot when you are actively sick; wait two weeks before getting the injection. It is recommended for everyone older than 6 months, including all adults. The flu shot is generally covered by insurance or given at a minimal charge.
- Pneumonia shot – This shot is recommended for anyone over the age of 65 as well as anyone at high risk for pneumonia including those with asthma, alcoholism, chronic bronchitis, chronic liver disease, smokers, people with a chronic condition like diabetes or cardiac disease or those with COPD. A re-vaccination is given one time if the person was treated before age 65 and 5 years have elapsed since that vaccination. You can take the pneumonia vaccine at the same time as the flu shot, but place them in different arms. The pneumonia vaccine protects against the pneumococcal bacteria up to 88% of the time.
- Tdap (Tetanus, Dipheria, and Pertussis) – A tetanus booster shot should be taken every 10 years or when you receive a deep puncture wound near dirt. Tetanus which is extremely uncommon due to the shot is also known as lock jaw. It is a serious bacterial infection which affects nerves and muscles and can result in severe complications such as breathing problems or death. It is more common in the elderly as well as in farmers or gardeners. A recent surge in the rate of pertussis or whooping cough has been noted in the U.S. Any older adult, who is in contact with an infant 12 months or younger, should speak to their MD about a booster as well to protect the infant from whooping cough.
- MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella) – People born after 1957 should receive this vaccine if no immunity is noted. Special high risk groups include college age students, women of child bearing age who have not had rubella, health care workers and those with chronic condition like diabetes who have not developed immunity.
- Shingles Shot – This vaccine was released in 2006 and anyone over the age of 60 should consider the shingles vaccine especially if they have had Varicella or chicken pox. It is considered a one- time vaccine. Shingles or Herpes Zoster is a painful rash with blisters that can cause post neurologic pain. Shingles is common in people over 50 and those with a weakened immune system.
Always check with your physician about vaccines and your own specific needs. Stay safe and healthy!
NOTE: Consult your doctor first to make sure my recommendations fit your special health needs.