One of my favorite things about my young patients is their complete lack of a verbal filter. They have no problem sharing their observations. They love pointing out, “Mommy forgot to shower” or “Daddy toots really loud.” The majority of these kiddie proclamations are usually off topic and randomly inserted into my conversations with their parents. But I always listen closely because every now and then they have a good point.

Yesterday, as I discussed the importance of vaccines with a patient’s mom I heard, “Mommy needs shots too.” Out of the mouths of babes.

Immunizations are not just for children. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Preventions (CDC) every year 40,000 to 50,000 people in the United States die from vaccine preventable diseases.

Despite numerous reports that the U.S. is experiencing an epidemic of Pertussis, or Whooping Cough, only 8 percent of adults has received the appropriate Pertussis booster.

Why aren’t adults properly vaccinated? Many adults think that the vaccines they received as a kid should protect them for life when in actuality some vaccine immunity fades with time. This waning immunity is thought to be one of the contributing factors in the current Pertussis (whooping cough) outbreak.

When I ask my patients’ parents why they have not kept up with their vaccines the answer I usually get is, “I didnʼt know I needed shots.”

So, why should parents get vaccinated? The best reason is to protect yourself and protect your family. As a parent if you become ill you may not be well enough to care for your child or worse you may infect your child with a serious disease. If you have a high risk job, work in the medical profession or travel to foreign countries you may need specific vaccines to protect you from diseases you could encounter. There are also vaccines especially for adults like the pneumonia vaccine and shingles vaccine.

What vaccines do you need? The CDC recommends the following vaccinations:

INFLUENZA

This is an annual vaccine that is recommended for all persons age 6 months and older.

Usually this vaccine is given in the fall. If you are younger than 50, healthy and not pregnant you can get the flu vaccine as a nasal spray or as an injection. If you are more than 50, pregnant, or have certain medical conditions you should get the injected form. This shot protects against the seasonal flu that causes chills, headache, sore throat, cough, fever and body aches.

Additional information about influenza vaccination is available from the CDC.  

TETANUS, DIPHTHERIA, AND PERTUSSIS (Tdap)

Young children get a series of vaccines called DTaP that protects them against these three serious bacterial infections. This vaccine is boostered at age 11 with the Tdap vaccine. You should receive a booster dose of this vaccine every 10 years. This is the vaccine that protects you from Whooping Cough. Traditionally, this vaccine has been recommended especially for all postpartum women, close contacts to infants younger than age 12 months, and healthcare professionals with direct patient contact. Given the current whooping cough epidemic the CDC is recommending that all adults who have not received Tdap be immunized with this vaccine.

MEASLES, MUMPS AND RUBELLA

Most adults and children in the United Stated have been vaccinated against these three highly contagious viruses, but the disease is still prevalent in other parts of the world.

Measles is especially dangerous in children and pregnant women. If a pregnant woman whose immunity to rubella has waned contracts this illness her baby may develop severe birth defects. If you are planning on becoming pregnant have your doctor test your immunity to these illnesses and get the vaccine if you are not immune

VARICELLA

This vaccine prevents Chickenpox, a contagious viral infection that can be fatal in adults especially if they are immunocompromised. Most children receive this vaccine at 12 months and a booster at 4 years. Adults who have not received the vaccine and who have never had chickenpox should receive 2 doses, usually given 4-8 weeks apart.

OTHER VACCINES TO CONSIDER

Hepatitis A is recommended if you work or travel outside of the United States. If you work in food service or daycare. If you work or live in a group home

 Hepatitis B is transmitted through sexual contact or blood products. If you work in Health Care, travel outside the United States or receive dialysis or have a job where you are exposed to blood products this vaccine is recommended.

Pneumococcal Vaccine protects against serious infection caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae. It is commonly known as the “pneumonia shot” although it protects against any illness caused by pneumococcus. Anyone can get pneumococcal disease but the people at greatest risk are 65 years and older. This vaccine is recommended for anyone 65 years of age or older, people younger than 65 years who have chronic illnesses like diabetes or asthma, have anatomic or functional asplenia including from sickle cell diseases, and are immunocompromised or receiving chemotherapy.

Zoster known as the shingles vaccines also for age 60 or older regardless of previous history of chickenpox or shingles. Yes, Grandma needs Shots too. Where can you get your vaccines? Your Family Physician, Internist or Obstetrician/ Gynecologist should be able to provide these vaccines but you can also get them at the Health Department and at many local pharmacies.

So dear parent roll up your sleeve and get ready to protect our children. And, the next time your child throws you under the bus, donʼt cringe. She really has your best interest at heart.

Sandra Peak, M.D.,  joined Cook Childrens Physician Network in Lewisville in 2004. Dr. Peak enjoys gardening, yoga, and boating and in her spare time can be found at the lake with her husband Jay, stepson Sage and the world’s most amazing Lab, Sugar Mae.

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