Vaccines for Adults

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It’s the time of year to get a flu shot to prevent us from getting sick this winter. This is true but there are several other vaccines that adults should get as well.

Influenza viruses that mutate every year and commonly circulate during the winter months cause the flu. It is a highly contagious disease spread by coughing, sneezing and nasal secretions. Those at greatest risk are young children, folks over age 65, pregnant women and those with serious health conditions or weakened immune system. The flu can cause lengthy respiratory illness with fever, muscular and head pain. The flu can lead to pneumonia and death especially in the very young or elderly.

Everyone is encouraged to get a flu shot. Even if you have a mild case, you could carry the disease to family and coworkers. Currently, two basic vaccines are available: Quadrivalent for children and all adults, and High Dose recommended for adults over age 65. The flu shot does not cause the flu. If you come down with the flu after a flu shot, you were already exposed to the virus. It takes two weeks for the flu vaccine to boost your immune system. Individual doses no longer are treated with the preservative thimerosal. The month of October is the best time to get a shot.

There are  two vaccines to prevent pneumonia caused by pneumococcus bacteria. Pneumonia can lead to serious infections with a high fatality rate, especially for the very young and elderly. Pneumovax 23 and Prevnar 13 are for adults over age 50. Your doctor who has your medical records and knows if you have already received one or the other, should give them to you preferably one year apart. The vaccine takes two to three weeks to develop protection. If these vaccines are received after age 65, they should not be repeated unless your doctor orders them.

As the medical community pushed everyone to be vaccinated with zostavax to prevent shingles, a new medication appeared—shingrix. Studies show that shingrix is 90 percent effective in preventing shingles. It is given to people age 50 and older in two doses, two to six months apart. 

Most of us had the chickenpox when we were young. The virus (herpes zoster) that causes remains in our bodies in an inactive state. Later in life, the virus may become active and cause shingles. A rash, usually on one side of the body or face can be very painful, and may last for months or even years and lead to other neurological problems. 

Tdap is a vaccine for tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis. All three are caused by bacteria. Tetanus enters the body through cuts and wounds. Diphtheria and pertussis are spread from person-to-person. Childhood vaccinations for diphtheria and tetanus have practically eliminated these illnesses. There has been an increase in the incidence of pertussis (whooping cough) in the last decade. Tdap is especially important for adults who have close contact with newborn babies or infants younger than one-year. Adults should continue to get a tetanus and diphtheria booster every 10 years.

Information sourced from Center for Disease Control.