By Scott M. Sadler, M.D.
Ask someone here in West Tennessee what season it is, and you could get a lot of answers – Autumn, Fall, Deer, Duck, Football. But doctors and nurses know well by November – it’s FLU season. So get to your doctor, the Health Department, even your pharmacy and get your flu shot – every year. Flu shots are the best prevention we have against the flu, and the flu kills several thousand Americans every year. But flu shots are not the only vaccines that adults need to stay healthy.
Vaccines Depending on Your Age
Depending on your age, there are several vaccinations you should get from your doctor. If you’re under 26, you could get vaccines against meningitis, tetanus/diphtheria/pertussis, chickenpox, Hepatitis A and B, and a measles/mumps/rubella combo. Also, we have a vaccine against HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) – a virus that can cause warts on your private parts and can even cause cervical cancer. That’s right, we have a vaccine that can reduce your chances of having cervical cancer!
If you’re over 60, you can get a shingles vaccine. If you’ve never had shingles – they can burn, itch, and hurt even after the blisters are gone. If you had the chickenpox when you were a child (virtually everyone over 30 had them as a child), then you carry the shingles virus in your body. The vaccine helps prevent it from coming up and expressing itself. Also, pneumonia vaccination is indicated for everyone over 65.
Pregnancy is a time for big benefits from the flu shot as well as the tetanus/diphtheria/pertussis shot. Pertussis causes whooping cough, and the vaccine helps prevent you passing it to your new baby – before they are old enough to get the shots themselves. Also, other adult family members of new babies can be vaccinated against pertussis. A one-time replacement of your usual tetanus shot booster should help prevent that nasty cough.
People Who Should Avoid Certain Vaccines
There are some people who should not get certain vaccines. If you had anaphylaxis to a shot in the past, then don’t get that same shot in the future. That’s a truly life-threatening allergic reaction, not just a little soreness and rash near the shot site. Severe egg allergy also means you shouldn’t get a Measles/Mumps/Rubella shot or Yellow Fever (only for certain international travelers) vaccine. Pregnant women shouldn’t get any live virus vaccines, but SHOULD get flu and pertussis – those are NOT live viruses in the vaccines. And, if you are immunocompromised due to HIV, taking prednisone or similar medications, or on chemotherapy for cancer, talk to your doctor about vaccines that you should or shouldn’t receive. Other health conditions, like kidney failure, asthma, COPD, diabetes, chronic liver disease, sickle cell disease, or having your spleen removed all have special recommendations for vaccines.
Preserve Your Greatest Treasure – Your Health!
So trust your doctor. Typically, we went into this job to HELP people. We didn’t sign up for a conspiracy to alter your mind or body by giving you shots. Shots keep you healthy and prevent several debilitating, sometimes even fatal diseases. So see your doctor, get your flu shot, and ask him or her if you need any other vaccines to preserve your greatest treasure – your health!
The University of Tennessee
Family Medicine Center
294 Summar Drive, Jackson, TN 38301