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Adult Vaccinations - Are You Current?
by Bryan Hughes. MD
St. Mary’s Medical Center
Be honest - When’s the last time you got a tetanus shot?
We’re pretty good at getting our children immunized for many childhood diseases. Because of near universal vaccination, tetanus has waned dramatically since 1940. The latest statistics show more than 90 percent of children from six to 11 years old have a protective antibody to the disease. The problem is, it doesn’t last forever.
Today, less than half of adults over the age of 20 are considered adequately protected. There are also other vaccinations you need to be aware of. Here's the latest list:
Td/Tdap - Diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (whooping cough)
A booster for tetanus and diphtheria should be received every 10 years, or whenever you are treated for a deep cut or puncture wound. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the pertussis portion (whooping cough) as well, as it has been a growing problem lately.
All adults who have not had chickenpox as a child, or have shown immunity to varicella, should receive two doses of single-antigen varicella vaccine or a second dose if they have received only one dose.
If you’ve had chickenpox, the virus is still in your body. It lives dormant in nerve cells in the spinal cord. As you age, stress or a decreased immune response, can trigger shingles – an extremely painful rash. I highly recommend the zoster vaccine for adults 50 and older, regardless of whether or not they’ve had chickenpox.
MMR - Measles, mumps and rubella
Adults born before 1957 generally are considered immune to measles and mumps. However, pregnant women, high-risk immune patients or those with chronic illnesses may need a booster. Blood tests will tell your doctor if you need it. Women should receive the MMR vaccine upon completion of pregnancy and before discharge from their healthcare facilities.
Pneumococcal polysaccharide (pneumonia)
This vaccine is recommended for all adults aged 65 years and older and adults younger than age 65 years with chronic diseases. Residents of nursing homes or long-term care facilities as well as adults who smoke cigarettes should consider this vaccination.
Meningococcal disease is a serious illness caused by bacteria. It can cause meningitis, which is an infection of the brain and spinal cord, as well as blood infections. The infection can cause death or lifelong disability. Preteens should receive a single shot of meningococcal vaccine while they are between 11 and 12 years of age followed by a check-up and a booster dose at age 16 to 18 years. It is relatively new and highly recommended for college students and military recruits.
Hepatitis A and hepatitis B are closely related diseases. Although the virus that causes each is different, it is commonly associated with unsanitary conditions or spread through ingesting food or water that's been contaminated. Contracting this disease can cause serious liver problems and in some cases, death.
Hepatitis B is spread through blood, semen or other bodily fluids, typically through unprotected sex or the sharing of needles and syringes. An infected mother can pass the disease on to her child at birth.
Human papillomavirus (HPV)
This virus is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI). Most people who become infected with HPV don't know they have it, which can lead to cervical and other cancers.
Females are encouraged to receive a three-dose series of this vaccine at age 11 or 12 years, but up to 26 years, if not previously vaccinated. For males, only the HPV4 is recommended in a three-dose series for routine vaccination at age 11 or 12 years, but also through 26 years, if not previously vaccinated.
If you’re travelling outside the country this summer, speak with your doctor about what immunizations may be required.
Most vaccines take time to become effective in your body. In the case of Hepatitis A and B, we're talking months, as these vaccines must be given in a series over time.
Finally, a word about vaccine reactions. With any medications there are side effects. Most minor issues with vaccinations I see in my office are side effects as opposed to true allergic reactions which are extremely rare with vaccines.
Dr. Hughes is in family practice at St. Mary’s Medical Center and can be reached at 816-690-6566.