The Vaccination Low-Down on What’s New

Contributed by Akeira Johnson, MD, Assistant Professor of Obstetrics & Gynecology

All adults, including those age 50 and older, need vaccines. The U.S. Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently changed the adult vaccine recommendations. So even if you think you’ve been keeping up with your vaccines that may not be the case.

Pneumonia – nearly one million people contract this each year. Since its development in the early 1980s there are now two different types of pneumococcal vaccine. Pneumovax protects adults against 23 strains of Streptococcus pneumonia bacteria. The other, Prevnar 13, which is routinely given to infants and toddlers, was approved by the FDA in 2011 for use in adults ages 50 and older.

Who needs it: Adults ages 65 and older need both vaccines. Those younger than 65 but have other risk factors – smoker, asthmatic or diabetic – should be vaccinated as well. Some may need more than one dose of both vaccines during their lifetime.

Meningitis – a serious, potentially life-threatening inflammation of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord. Although it’s not as contagious as other illnesses, such as a cold or the flu, it’s easily spread by coughing, kissing, or sneezing. Good news is that it’s preventable with a vaccine. Just this year, two serogroup B vaccines that protect against two forms of the disease were given FDA approval.

Who needs it: Both vaccines have proven effective in protecting those ages 10-25, but have also been found to be useful for older adults. This vaccine is given routinely.

Influenza (Flu) – a common, very contagious viral infection that can be deadly, especially in high-risk groups (children younger than 5, adults 65 years and older, pregnant women, and those with certain medical conditions). The best way to prevent the flu is by getting a flu vaccine each year.

Who needs it: Everyone 6 months of age and older unless you have had a severe reaction to the flu shot in the past, allergic to eggs, or have or had Guillain-Barre syndrome. Flu shots are offered at most primary care offices and pharmacies September until March.Some businesses also offer the vaccine on site to their employees.

Td (tetanus, diphtheria) and Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis) vaccines – if you’ve never received a Tdap vaccine, you should be vaccinated once, even if you are over age 65. A Td booster is needed every 10 years.

Who needs it: Everyone, especially those in close contact with infants younger than 12 months of age.

Hepatitis B vaccine – Hepatitis A and B are two members of a family of closely related diseases caused by a viral infection. Although different, the diseases are similar. Hepatitis is marked by liver inflammation, and it can be serious or even life-threatening.

Who needs it: Children ages 12 to 23 months, adults 50 and older, and those at risk should receive all three vaccine doses at different times. The following people are considered at risk:

  • Anyone who has sex with someone that has hepatitis B
  • Anyone being evaluated or treated for an STD
  • People who share needles used to inject drugs
  • Anyone whose job routinely puts them at risk for coming in contact with blood or blood-contaminated body fluids

Human papillomavirus (HPV) – Gardisil 9, a new HPV vaccine, protects against nine strains of the HPV virus that cause genital warts and seven common strains that can cause cancer.

Who needs it: All boys and girls age 9 years and older should get vaccinated with the 3-dose series. Catch-up vaccines are recommended for males through age 21 and for females through age 26, if they did not get vaccinated when they were younger.

Over and over we’re finding that it’s healthier, less expensive, and far less painful to prevent many diseases rather than treat them once they appear. These vaccine findings hold much promise for enlarging the group of conditions we can guard against, before they become potentially deadly. Please discuss your options with your health care provider.

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