Most people are probably aware of the benefits of staying up to date on vaccinations. Not only are we protecting ourselves from preventable diseases and illnesses — but we’re also helping to keep those with compromised immune systems safe through herd immunity.
However, it can be difficult to keep up with what updates are recommended for both kids and adults these days. How long is a Tdap good for? At what point should I consider getting the shingles vaccine? What all do my kids need to have before entering kindergarten?
Lisa Horstman, a public health nurse at Allen County Public Health, has offered some insight on common vaccinations, what they prevent, and when you should be getting them.
Before starting at a daycare center, Head Start or preschool, children need to be protected against 14 different diseases, Horstman noted, including: Chickenpox (varicella,) diphtheria, hepatitis A and B, haemophilus influenzae, influenza, measles, mumps, pertussis, pneumococcal, polio, rotavirus, rubella and tetanus. When it comes to entering kindergarten, kids will need updates on dTaP, polio, the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) shot, hepatitis B and chickenpox.
After that, seventh grade is another important year.
“This will be the third year of what I still call the ‘new’ meningococcal requirement,” Horstman said. “Since it started three years ago, it’s grades seven through nine for this upcoming 2018 year. And that prevents against meningitis or the septicemia, where it gets into the bloodstream.
“For your teen, I would say making sure they’re up to date on their meningococcal, Tdap — because that again prevents whooping cough, or pertussis — HPV, which is not a required one for school, but definitely recommended. Because it can protect against a lot of different types of cancers in males and females. And sometimes people don’t think about the males, but that also offers protection for males. And of course the flu vaccine, which is recommended for everyone.”
Horstman also noted that the HPV vaccine can generally be given up through 26 years of age.
As far as adults are concerned, getting updates on vaccines might not be on the radar for pregnant women — but it should be.
“The Tdap is for every pregnancy,” Horstman said. “If you were pregnant two years ago and you’re pregnant again, you get a Tdap. But for people who are not pregnant, it would be a one-time dose of Tdap after you’re an adult — and then every 10 years, a booster, which can be Td. It doesn’t have to be Tdap.”
Parents, grandparents and other potential caregivers of newborns and young infants should especially make sure they’re updated on their Tdap vaccines.
“There’s a term for it — they call it cocooning. And so you want to protect the infant and their circle of anyone that has close contact with them,” Horstman explained. “So we’ll see a lot of grandparents come in and ask for the Tdap. And that has the pertussis component to it — and that’s a big thing with babies is whooping cough because newborns or even younger babies until they’re fully immunized, they’re susceptible to that. And so we recommend caregivers, grandparents, of course dads, pregnant moms, anybody close — maybe some older siblings, even. Just making sure that they’re up to date.”
Horstman also provided some basic information about a few other common vaccines:
“There is a new shingles vaccines, and so that’s out there in the news and people are starting to hear about that,” she said. “That is recommended for people age 50 and older. And another thing too, is if they’ve gotten the other shingles vaccine — Zostavax is what was called — if they’ve previously gotten Zostavax, it’s now recommended to get, it’s called Shingrix. That’s the new one. And it is two doses; the old one was just one dose and done.”
Everyone 6 months and older is recommended to get a yearly flu vaccine as soon as it becomes available — which usually starts at the end of August.
“If you were born in 1957 or later, then you should receive one dose in your adult life,” she said. “If you were born before 1957, you’re considered immune because back then it was going around enough that you probably had it.”
“Varicella, which is the chickenpox, that can be given to people 18 and older. And a lot of times, college, depending on what you’re going into — healthcare — they’ll want to see some of that if you didn’t have (the disease) as a child.”
“There have been some outbreaks,” she said. “I know of one recently in Michigan. And across the U.S., you’ve been hearing about some sporadic outbreaks of Hepatitis A. Just people that want protection, basically. And people, maybe, who travel.”
“Anyone who wants protected can get that. But definitely if you’re in the healthcare field or studying, you might be required to receive that, which is a series of three.”
“Anyone 65 and older should (get) Prevnar 13 and then a year later the Pneumovax 23, is what it’s called,” she noted. “People with asplenia — without a spleen — or immunocompromised people. Also, the Pneumovax 23 could be given to smokers and people with different chronic health conditions.”
Regardless of the specific situation, immunizations remain an important part of healthcare.
Horstman stressed the proven benefits of making sure you’re up to date on vaccines.
“A lot of the diseases they prevent, we don’t see because people are protected,” she said. “But if you look at different communities that aren’t protected, it’s proven that you see cases. A couple of years ago, I know California had a big measles outbreak — and that was unvaccinated travelers. So because we don’t see them in the U.S. — even polio — it’s still in the world. It’s still out there.”
This time of year is the perfect time to visit Allen County Health or make an appointment with your primary care physician
It’s essentially the calm before the storm, Horstman noted.
“But about mid-August and then it goes through September, it seems like kids aren’t getting immunized and the school nurses are going, ‘Uh oh, check in their records. You need to be getting this, or you can be subject to not being here.’”
For more information about vaccinations and updates, visit CDC.gov.
Reach Michelle Stein at firstname.lastname@example.org.