CINCINNATI—Regular vaccines are a crucial tool to protect children and adults from serious infectious disease. But it can be hard to know if everyone is up to date on their needed immunizations.
UC Health family medicine physician Jeffry Ushupun, MD, says talking with your doctor and looking at official immunization schedules are key ways to make sure you’re protected against infectious disease.
While most children receive their schedule of immunizations starting at infancy, a child’s vaccines don’t end at the preteen years.
At 11-12 years of age, children need a tetanus/diptheria/pertussis booster and a meningitis vaccine, says Ushupun. "Parents also should consider an HPV vaccine, one of the few vaccines that can prevent cancer,” he adds. "At 16, teens need a meningitis booster.”
As adults, additional immunizations are needed to both address specific illness and boost vaccines that lose effectiveness over time.
"Our immune systems can forget the lessons learned by vaccination,” says Ushupun. "This is why we recommend a tetanus ‘booster’ every 10 years for most adults, to act as an update and reminder. Pertussis, or whooping cough, is another disease on the rise because of adults losing immunity. I recommend a combination tetanus-pertussis shot for all adults who haven’t had a pertussis booster since childhood.”
As adults age, Ushupun says they also can become more susceptible to serious disease caused by common infections like flu and pneumococcus. Adults over 60 years old should receive the shingles vaccine and adults over 65 need to add the pneumonia vaccine.
"There are also many recommendations based on specific illnesses and other risk factors,” says Ushupun. "If you smoke, have asthma or emphysema, diabetes, heart disease, kidney or liver disease, or have a suppressed immune system, you should be protected with specific vaccines. Ask your doctor for more information.”
Lastly, the adult immunization schedule includes an annual yearly flu shot. Ushupun says the 2012 flu shot protects against different strains from the past three years.
"I always recommend getting the flu shot as soon as you can,” he says. "Get protected before you are exposed, and it will last all winter long. Your body starts creating antibodies to the influenza virus within hours of receiving the flu shot, but it takes up to two weeks to gain full immunity.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has immunization schedules for children, teens, adults and adult healthcare workers.
It also has more information on the Vaccines for Children Program, a federally funded program providing vaccines at no cost to children who would otherwise go unvaccinated because of cost.