For the grown-ups
A souped-up flu shot. An annual flu shot, which now includes protection against H1N1, is a must for everyone six months of age and over. But this year, a high-dose version of the flu vaccine is available for people ages 65-plus . The reason: “The older you get, the less robust a response you have to the flu vaccine,” explains Dr. William Schaffner, president of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases. “The new vaccine evokes a stronger response.”
A booster for new parents and grandparents. A resurgence of whooping cough among children has sparked the need for adults who are going to be in close contact with an infant who hasn’t completed at least three of her five Diphtheria-Tetanus-Pertussis (DTaP) vaccineshots to get a booster to protect against the disease, also known as pertussis. Pertussis isn’t life-threatening in adults, but it is in infants, and adults, whose vaccine protection has waned, can transfer the disease to babies.
Serious protection for singles. While it’s recommended for adolescents, the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine is licensed for use in females and males ages 9 to 26. If you are older than that and not in a long-term monogamous relationship, ask your physician if you should get it “off label.” “The older you get, the more likely it is that you have already been infected by the virus,” says Dr. Schaffner, who is also a professor of medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville. “And the chance that the vaccine will benefit you diminishes.” If you’re male, get the HPV vaccine that protects against genital warts.
A birthday bonus. Everyone age 65 and older needs a dose of the Pneumococcal Vaccine (PPSV) to protect against bacterial infections such as pneumococcal pneumonia, meningitis, sinusitis and bacteremia, a blood infection. But if you got the shot more than five years before your 65th birthday, you’ll need a second when you celebrate that milestone. Typically, younger people need the vaccine if they have a long-term health problem such as heart or lung disease, diabetes or asthma; smoke; or take certain medications.
Shingles for the younger crowd. This spring, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the shingles vaccine for people ages 50 to 59—shaving 10 years off the previous age range for which it was approved. There’s no official recommendation yet for 50-somethings. But since the shingles, or zoster, vaccine can reduce the incidence of shingles in the 50-plus crowd by almost 70 percent, it’s worth a conversation with your doctor. Shingles occurs when the chicken pox virus, which has been dormant in the body for years, flares up later in life. A blistering rash that typically affects one side of the body, shingles causes pain that ranges from mild to debilitating. Some people also experience vision problems, scarring or muscle weakness.
For kids and teens
Booster news: It’s now OK for a child ages 7 to 10 who hasn’t received all three of his primary Diphtheria-Tetanus-Pertussis Vaccine (DTaP) doses to get a tetanus-diphtheria-pertussis (Tdap) booster to make sure he’s fully protected against these three diseases. These kids can skip the typical booster at ages 11 to 12, and simply get a tetanus-diptheria (Td) shot every 10 years, as recommended for the general population. Prior to this change, there was no plan in place to immunize children who had missed part of the DTaP series. As a result these under-immunized kids were able to transmit the disease to younger children who had not yet received their full series of DTaP shots.
HPV: Not for girls only? Every young woman up to age 26 needs this three-shot vaccine if she didn’t get when she was an adolescent, say current recommendations. But earlier this year, a study published in theNew England Journal of Medicine reported that one HPV vaccine on the market may protect against genital warts in young men ages 16 to 26. So should your son be vaccinated? As we went to press, a decision had not yet been made re whether the vaccine should be routinely given to young males. Currently, the recommendations state that boys and men ages 9 through 26 may be vaccinated to reduce their risk for genital warts.
A new kind of college prep. Experts are now recommending a meningitis booster for teens ages 16 and 18, even if they were immunized at age 11 or 12. “We once thought a single shot would protect children through their college years and until age 21, when risk diminishes,” says Dr. Michael Brady, chairperson of the committee on infectious diseases for the American Academy of Pediatrics. “We now know protection against meningococcal disease wanes after about five years.” If your child only gets one shot at age 11 or 12, she won’t be protected when she heads off to college or enlists in the military.
For the latest vaccine schedules as well as vaccine record forms, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.