By Nancy Peters, MD
In the United States, up to 100,000 deaths may be prevented by vaccines each year. While the side effects and risks of vaccinations are heavily debated, there still is strong evidence that they save lives.
What Vaccines Do I Need?
During the 2017-2018 flu season, the CDC estimates that 6.2 million illnesses, 3.2 million medical visits, 91,000 hospitalizations and 5,700 deaths were prevented through the flu vaccine. In addition, there are about one million cases of shingles in the United States each year. While the condition isn’t life-threatening, it is very painful and debilitating, so I urge all of my patients to get vaccinated when they hit age 50.
Most adults should receive:
- The seasonal flu vaccine in September or October each year. This is particularly important for those with chronic health issues, pregnant women and older adults. It is not recommended for people with Guillain-Barré syndrome.
- The Tdap vaccine once if you didn’t get it as an adolescent. This vaccine will protect you from developing pertussis (whooping cough), tetanus, and diphtheria. Additionally, women should get the Tdap vaccine during every pregnancy, preferably between week 27 and week 36.
- The shingles vaccine at age 50.
- The pneumonia vaccine at age 65.
Do Any Vaccines Require Booster Shots?
Several vaccines require additional doses to remain effective. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends:
- A tetanus and diphtheria booster shot every 10 years.
- The two-part shingles vaccine at age 50. For this vaccination, patients receive the Shingrix vaccine, followed by an additional dose of the same vaccine six months later.
- The two-part pneumonia vaccine at age 65. For this vaccination, patients receive Prevnar 13 followed by Pneumovax one year later.
It’s important to receive all doses of a vaccine because you may only be partially covered without them.
Most people can receive booster shots unless they’ve had an allergic reaction to the vaccine in the past. Some people experience side effects after receiving shots, including soreness, redness, or warmth where the vaccine was injected. This is normal. Some people also may feel flu-like symptoms after receiving the flu shot but it is impossible to get the flu from a flu shot. There is no live virus in the flu vaccine, so while you may experience a temporary, flu-like reaction, you should feel fine in a day or two.
I’ve had several patients ask about the measles vaccine, since we’ve had outbreaks recently here in New Jersey. You only need the measles vaccine – which is delivered as part of the mumps, measles, and rubella vaccine (MMP) – if you’ve been exposed to the disease recently and a blood test confirms that you are at risk.
Other Vaccines You May Want to Consider
There are additional vaccines that may be appropriate for you:
- Hepatitis A: You may want to get the Hepatitis A vaccine if you frequently travel to countries where the disease is prevalent.
- Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine: The CDC recommends the HPV vaccine for men and women before age 26. Two or three doses of the vaccine (depending on the patient’s age) can protect against cancers caused by the virus.
As always, your primary care doctor is your best source of information about what vaccines are right for you and your family.
Dr. Nancy Peters is board certified in internal medicine and pediatrics and is on staff at CentraState Medical Center.