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Vaccinations: An Ounce of Prevention Helps Keep Communities Healthy and Safe

Man and daughter in fields

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. When it comes to vaccinations, the old adage has never been more true. Make sure your vaccinations and those of your children are up-to-date. This action by each of us helps keep our entire community healthy and free of vaccine-preventable diseases.

The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) makes the following recommendations for healthy children and adults. If you fall behind, catch-up schedules can get you back on track.

Newborns - Age 6: Building Early Immunity

A schedule of routine vaccinations from birth through 6 years of age covers children for 14 potentially life-threatening diseases. Missing these critical vaccines can put a child at life-long risk of contracting whooping cough, measles, polio, hepatitis, and other diseases.

Children older than 6 months should get an annual flu shot. Influenza is responsible for hundreds of pediatric hospitalizations and more than 100 deaths each year. The first time your child is vaccinated against the flu, she will receive two vaccinations one month apart. This provides the greatest immunity.

School-age Children: Boosters and New Vaccines

At age 10 or 11, your child should receive a “TDAP” booster to increase immunity to tetanus, diphtheria, and whooping cough. The meningococcal vaccine is also recommended at age 11, with a booster at 16. This vaccine prevents potentially deadly brain infections. Teens and young adults may be at increased risk for meningococcal disease, especially if they live with a large group of young people, such as a summer camp or college dorm.

The human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine is also recommended for children at age 11. This series of three shots can help prevent HPV infections which can cause cancers later in life.

Annual flu shots are still important for children in this age group, who are frequently exposed to others with flu-like symptoms.

Adults: Vulnerabilities and Vaccinations

Adults should also get a flu shot every year and a tetanus booster every 10 years.

MMR: Why 1957 is an Important Year

Many patients ask about the measles/mumps/rubella (MMR) vaccine for adults. Here are the guidelines:

  • Adults born before 1957 are considered immune to measles and mumps.
  • Healthy adults born in 1957 or later should have the MMR vaccine unless they have documentation of having already received one or more doses or if blood titers, which measure antibodies, show they have immunity to each of the three diseases.

Shingles: The Latest Recommendations

Anyone who has had chickenpox is at risk of developing herpes zoster, also known as shingles. The shingles vaccine decreases the incidence of the shingles rash and it dramatically reduces the incidence of post-herpetic neuralgia, a very painful condition that often follows an episode of shingles.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the shingles vaccine for adults over the age of 50, and the CDC recommends it for anyone 60 and older, even if they already had an episode of shingles.

Even if you don’t think you had chickenpox, it is recommended and safe to get the shingles vaccine. Ask your health insurance company about costs and coverage and whether you should get it at a pharmacy or your doctor’s office. Your doctor may not keep the vaccine on hand, so call several days in advance so it can be ordered.

Pneumonia

To reduce the risk of pneumonia, all adults should get a dose of pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV-23) at age age 65. We also now recommend a one-time dose of the new pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PVC-13) which protects older adults from strains of pneumococcal disease that could cause severe pneumonia or meningitis. Medicare covers this vaccine.

Talk to your Doctor

Again, the vaccine recommendations above are for healthy children and adults. Recommendations may differ for individuals with chronic disease, serious illness, or a weakened immune system.

Talk to your doctor about your own and your family’s vaccination needs.

About LG Health Hub

The LG Health Hub features breaking medical news and straightforward advice to help individuals of all ages make healthy choices and reach their wellness goals. The blog puts articles by trusted Lancaster General Health clinical experts, good 'n healthy recipes, videos, patient stories, and health risk assessments at your fingertips.

 

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