By Dr. Theodore J. Strange, M.D., F.A.C.P.
Now is the time of the year when vaccinations are on everybody’s mind, physicians and patients both. As children return to school, as students return to college, they all need to update their vaccination status. As the flu season rapidly approaches, it is important that everybody understands the importance of being properly vaccinated against diseases that can have a major difference on one’s health. It is also important to understand the benefits and the risks of all vaccinations. These items should be discussed in detail with only primary care physicians during your next office visit. Yet it is also very important to know that all of the current vaccinations given today are extremely safe.
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The first vaccination that is important to keep up to date is – Tetanus, Diphtheria and Pertussis vaccine. Initially started in childhood, it should be administered every 10 years. It is especially important to consider giving the vaccine to patients who are at age 65 or when that patient becomes a new grandparent as young children can harbor the disease called Pertussis. The vaccine is called TDAP and is safe and very effective.
The next vaccination is the Hepatitis B series, which protects patients against contracting Hepatitis B, which could make a patient very ill. Anyone working in the healthcare field or anyone exposed to contaminated water or going into very rural areas should be immunized.
Influenza is a disease that rears its ugly head every winter and during some years it can be worse than other more quiet years. Pandemics are always of great concern and the influenza vaccination needs to be administered every year starting in September and can be given to patients through March. The only contradiction is an egg allergy and their are NO other significant side effects. It is not a live vaccine and therefore patients cannot get the disease from this vaccine. It is safe and it is especially necessary for all healthcare workers, all persons over 65 and anyone who just doesn’t want to get the flu from age 6 months on and older. Also, all pregnant women should receive the vaccine.
The last vaccine to mention is the pneumoccal vaccine. It is to be given to all patients 65 and older and to anyone younger than 65 who has pulmonary or cardiac diseases that may make them more likely to get pneumonia. This also includes patients who do not have a spleen or may be on chemotherapy or have issues with their immune system. The vaccination is either given once before age 65 and then once again after age 65.
These vaccines are just a few of the important vaccinations necessary for prevention and keeping one healthy and free of disease. There are many other vaccines that are also safe and effective like Zostavax to prevent shingles and Gardisil in young patients to prevent HPV, which is a leading cause of cervical cancer in women.
It is also important to understand the safety and occasional side effects of all these vaccines and should be discussed with your Primary Care Doctor or Specialist during your next visit.