The month of August has been designated Immunization Awareness Month. In this article, I’d like to remind our adult and senior patients that immunizations aren’t just for children. With the vaccines currently available, you have the power to protect yourself from serious diseases like shingles, pneumonia and flu.
In a month or two, we will begin offering flu vaccines for our patients at our offices. Pharmacies and many employers will also be offering the vaccine. As I’ve shared for many years, the flu vaccine cannot give a person the flu. Getting the flu is so much more dangerous for so many patients than the few, mild side effects from the vaccine. We’ll talk more about flu in a future article.
The recent measles outbreak is an excellent example of what can happen when vaccines aren’t used and a disease spreads widely. A disease that had been eradicated came back with a vengeance. In the first 6 months of 2019, 1,022 cases of measles were reported in the United States. This is the greatest number of cases since 1992 and since measles was declared eliminated in 2000.
Vaccines reduce the risk of infection by working with our body’s natural defenses to create immunity to these serious diseases. Some vaccines offer protection for life and others are needed more frequently.
Let’s look at some of the common vaccines we all need. The tetanus vaccine is given every 10 years. If a person receives a laceration, the booster is given at 5 years. Once in a lifetime, the Adacel, or tetanus-diphtheria-acellular pertussis, vaccine is given in place of a routine tetanus booster. It can be given earlier if someone is going to be around an infant to reduce the risk of pertussis, whooping cough, in the infant.
There are two pneumonia vaccines now available. The vaccine should be given to everyone over 64. If you have a chronic illness, like diabetes, heart disease, or lung disease, the vaccine is given earlier. Talk with your doctor about the proper timing based on your condition.
Shingles is the reactivation of the virus that caused us to get chicken pox when we were young. The virus lives in the nerve roots in our spinal cords and when activated cause the rash and pain we know as shingles. A new vaccine, Shingrix, has been released for the prevention of shingles. The recommendation is for those 50 years and older to get two doses of the vaccine. If you received the older vaccine, Zostavax, you should still get the newer Shingrix vaccine.
Some of these vaccines can be given at your primary care doctor’s office. Others are given at your local pharmacy. Talk with your doctor about which vaccines you may be needing. Receiving needed vaccines helps you, but helps the community, as well. Don’t let Immunization Awareness Month be the only time you worry about your health!
Michael Dominguez, MD, FAAFP is board certified in Family Medicine. His office is located at HealthTexas Medical Group, 590 N. General McMullen, 78228, phone: 210-249-0212.