You’re Never Too Old To Get Your Shots

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September 3, 2014

Some time soon, when the evening air starts to chill, a few leaves start to drift to earth and the smell of wood smoke is in the air you’ll know fall is just around the corner. That means it is flu shot season. Actually, there are a number of other immunizations recommended for adults. Let me highlight a few.

Tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (Tdap): Introduced in 2005, this vaccine should be given once, then the traditional tetanus booster Td (tetanus, diphtheria) should continue to be given every 10 years. Tdap can be given any time regardless of the interval since the last Td vaccination. Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, is a highly contagious respiratory illness. Before the introduction of a pertussis vaccine most cases occurred in children. Since the 1990’s more than half of all cases have occurred in adolescents and adults. Symptoms are those of a typical upper respiratory infection which is followed by up to 8 weeks of a severe ‘croupy’ cough. Infected adults and adolescents can serve as a reservoir for infection of infants and children. Infants are especially at risk for serious complications from pertussis, including death. Adults who will be around infants should have their own vaccine updated to help provide a cocoon of protection to those infants.

Shingles vaccine (Zostavax): Introduced in 2006, this vaccine is recommended for patients 60 and over. Shingles is caused by the same virus that causes chicken pox. It is a condition involving a painful rash. While it can occur at an age it becomes more common and becomes more severe as we get older. The vaccine reduces the chance of shingles by about 50%. Vaccinated persons who go on to get shingles will have a milder case and shorter duration of pain. The pain of shingles, known as post herpetic neuralgia, is considered the worst aspect of shingles.  See our earlier article about Shingles for more information.

Pneumonia vaccine: The pneumonia vaccine is recommended one time for all adults 65 and older. It is also indicated for younger patients with certain health conditions. It can be given at the same time as the flu vaccine. There are two versions of this vaccine and new recommendations may be announced soon.  Ask your doctor about the latest news.

And finally, flu vaccine: Flu vaccination is recommended annually for everyone age 6 months and older. There are several forms of flu vaccine. The right one depends on a patient’s age, health history and personal preferences but no one should go without some form of this vital immunization. For further details on which one might be right for you, speak to your doctor and check out our flu vaccine article from the 2013-14 season. You can get up-to-date info at the cdc website:  Also tips for pediatric patients can be found in Dr. Hashimi’s article from January, 2014.

There are several other vaccines available for adults especially those who have certain health conditions or exposures to disease such as for travel. Talk to your physician about your immunization status at every physical to make sure you are up to date. The schedule can be found at