Vaccines are one of most important ways to prevent disease
With children back in school and winter just around the corner, it’s a good time to make sure you and your family are up to date on your vaccinations against contagious seasonal diseases.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the flu vaccine for people over the age of six months. It is especially important for pregnant women and others at high risk for complications such as pneumonia. Estimates of flu-related deaths over the past three decades have ranged from 3,000 to 40,000 a year. About 90 percent of flu-related deaths occur in people over the age of 65.
The vaccine takes about two weeks to become effective, and immunity lasts about one year, so we recommend that you receive your flu shot as early as possible. Flu viruses tend to peak in January and February, but the season can run from October through late May.
Side effects of the vaccination can include pain, redness and swelling at the injection site, headache, muscle aches, mild fever and fatigue. But, because you are being injected with a dead virus, there’s no truth to the myth that the flu shot can actually give you the flu.
People who should not be vaccinated include those with a severe allergic reaction to chicken eggs, those who have had severe reactions to the vaccine and children younger than 6 months. People with a history of Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a severe paralytic disorder, should discuss the safety of the vaccine with their physicians.
The pneumonia vaccine should be considered for adults over the age of 65, and younger adults with risk factors such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), diabetes and immune-compromising illnesses or treatments. The CDC recommends a different pneumonia vaccine for children younger than five. Side effects are few but may include fever, rash and allergic reactions. Women should be vaccinated before becoming pregnant.
The childhood vaccine DTaP prevents against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis and is recommended for children younger than age seven, beginning at two months of age. A booster, called Tdap, is recommended for children at about age 12.
The CDC also recommends the Tdap booster for adults, especially those in close contact with infants. The idea is to create a “cocoon” of immunity around infants to prevent transmission. Most adults lose their immunity to pertussis (whooping cough) even if they were vaccinated as children. Side effects from the vaccines can include fever, irritability, fatigue and vomiting
The CDC recommends the shingles vaccine for all adults age 60 and older. The effects of shingles typically are more severe the older you are. Shingles is caused by the same virus that causes chicken pox, but anyone older than 60 should receive the vaccine regardless of whether they have had chicken pox. People with severe allergic reactions to the vaccine’s components or who have a weakened immune system from certain conditions and treatments should not get the vaccine.
We’d rather prevent disease than treat it, and vaccination is one of the most important ways we can protect ourselves from contracting seasonal disease and spreading it to others. Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at cdc.gov/vaccines for more information.
Dr. Sarah Boehmer Schwartz is a family medicine physician with Powell Family Medicine and an active member of the OhioHealth Grady Memorial Hospital medical staff.