Shots for Big Kids

September 30, 2014

We tend to think of shots (immunizations) as only being for little kids. But there are several shots for “big” kids, some of which are for all and some that should especially be considered for those who travel, those who work in a field where they are exposed to blood and body fluids or for those who are sexually active.

Most of the germs that cause vaccine-preventable diseases are always in the environment, but because people are immunized against them, they cannot find a host to multiply and cause illness. As people age, their immunity to certain diseases may fade. There may also be a disease for which a vaccine was not available when they were young. Consider the disease, tetanus (also known as lockjaw.) The tetanus germ is always in the environment, hiding in soil and dirt.  During everyday activities such as gardening or outside recreation, the tetanus bacteria can enter a cut or wound in the skin.  All persons should have a tetanus booster every 10 years.  For very serious cuts or wounds, a booster may be readministered within 5 years.  The next time you visit a doctor, why not ask for a booster shot? If you are getting a booster, be sure to ask for the tetanus shot that has the diphtheria and pertussis components. Every adult should have one booster with the three components (called Tdap.) While protecting yourself against these diseases, you will also be protecting any infants that you have contact with, as they are not fully immunized against pertussis until one year old. It is now recommended that pregnant women get a Tdap with every pregnancy.  

            Besides an annual flu vaccine recommended annually for everyone 6 months of age and older, there other vaccines that are recommended for adults.

Pneumonia shots are recommended for all adults over age 65 and for adults with chronic illness or compromised immune systems. This shot is currently a once or twice in a life-time immunization, depending on the age at which you receive it. It protects against 23 of the most common strains of pneumonia. If you have had one pneumonia shot, check with your health care provider about the need for a booster. There is no recommendation for a third shot at this time.

            A shingles shot (also known as zoster) is recommended for persons age 60 and over. It is about 50% effective in preventing shingles. Hepatitis A shots are recommended for adults, especially those who will be traveling, for those with certain risk factors or for anyone who wants protection against Hepatitis A. Hepatitis B shots are essential for any adult who has continued exposure to blood and/or body fluids on the job, paid or volunteer. It is also recommended for those who are sexually active with people who have an unknown status of Hepatitis B.

            HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccine protects against this sexually-transmissible disease (STD) which can cause cervical cancer. It is recommended for all women age 26 and under and for men age 21 and under. It should also be considered for men age 22 to 26 with certain risk factors (speak to your health care provider) or for any male age 22-26 who desires protection from this sexually-transmissible disease.

            There are other shots for “big” kids to consider. You may need a dose of Measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) if you were born in 1957 or later and never had the disease or the vaccine. If you never had chicken pox (varicella) or were vaccinated but received only one vaccine, you may need a vaccine or a second dose. Some adults with certain high-risk conditions need a Hib vaccine (Haemophilus influenzae type b) which is generally only given to young children. You should discuss this with your health care provider. The meningococcal vaccine is important for certain high-risk persons; and for those college students who will be living in a dorm. If you were never vaccinated or you were vaccinated before the age of 16, you will need this vaccination or a booster.

            Those are the main vaccines that “big” kids need. However, if you plan to travel to other countries, there may be “specialty” vaccines that you need. Visit the travel section of the CDC.gov website and plug in your destination for find out what vaccines, medications and other measures are necessary to prevent illness during international travel.

If you do plan to travel internationally, start early to find out which vaccines you will need. Many times, travel immunizations require two or three immunizations at least a month apart. It also takes time for the immunity from the injection to kick in. Not all doctors can give you the immunizations you require and you may have to go to a travel clinic. There may be a waiting period to get an appointment. If you are traveling and have access to a computer, go to www.cdc.gov , “travel” to find out what you will need for travel to that country. It is an excellent resource and will provide you with any current outbreaks or conditions that you should know about.    

            Most of the adult shots can be given together on the same day.   For written information on any of these immunizations, District residents (Bethany, Hamden, North Haven or Woodbridge) can call 248-4528 or request by email. You can also find information on the QVHD website,  www.qvhd.org