Vaccines are an important part of keeping diseases and infections at bay for both you and your children. As a doctor, I work to educate families on the importance of vaccines, different kinds of vaccines and at what age and how often vaccines should be given.

Three important and commonly given vaccines are:

  1. Tdap to prevent life-threatening bacterial diseases
  2. Shingles-Zoster to prevent shingles
  3. Pneumococcal to prevent diseases such as pneumonia, meningitis and bloodstream infections

Tdap Vaccine

What is it?

Tdap (Adacel/Boostrix) is a combination vaccine that protects against three life-threatening bacterial diseases:

  • Tetanus, particularly of your jaw and neck muscles, which can interfere with your ability to breathe
  • Diphtheria, a serious bacterial infection usually affecting the mucous membranes of your nose and throat
  • Pertussis, more commonly known as “whooping cough” and is the most common of the three diseases

Who should receive the Tdap vaccine?

  • 11- to 12-year-olds and older. This is a booster to the primary series of vaccines children receive. Typically, Tdap is given to an adolescent at their seventh grade physical
  • All pregnant women, with each pregnancy, regardless of the amount of time between pregnancies. Receiving this vaccine during pregnancy allows the mother to pass on antibodies to protect her baby until the newborn reaches the age to start vaccinations
  • Grandparents, fathers, daycare providers and anyone else who has close contact with infants

Why is it important to receive this vaccine?

Pertussis is particularly dangerous for infants due to their young immune system and decreased ability for their body to fight off the disease.

Two popular commercials you might have seen advertising this vaccine. One of the commercials compares a grandparent to the Big Bad Wolf if he or she hasn’t been vaccinated. The other commercial depicts a baby monitor attached to the front door, instructing people to put on an isolation suit before entering the house. The focus in both commercials is the “cocoon effect,” meaning that if you can vaccinate everyone around the child, then you create an environment with less likelihood of your child being infected.

It’s also close to home.There have been 13 cases of pertussis in Lancaster County, Nebraska in just five months (from August to December 2015). Teens and children had pertussis in 11 of the 13 cases.

Shingles-Zoster Vaccine

What is it?

The Shingles-Zoster vaccine (Zostavax) is a vaccine that reduces your chances of getting shingles, a painful blistering rash that causes associated nerve pain. Shingles usually develops on one side of the body. If you ever had chickenpox, then you could get shingles at any time. The same virus that caused your case of the chickenpox remains in your body and can later resurface if your immune system is compromised. This vaccine will not treat shingles or the associated nerve pain that may follow if you already have shingles.

Who should receive the shingles vaccine?

Adults age 60 and older, especially if you are in close contact with infants.

Why is the shingles vaccine important?

The risk for ongoing nerve pain after shingles is significant. The pain from shingles is sometimes impossible to treat and can be debilitating. This is the main reason the vaccine was developed. Additionally, if you have shingles, you can give chickenpox to a child that has not yet been vaccinated against chickenpox. Routine vaccination for children does not begin until one year of age.

Pneumococcal Vaccine

What is it?

A vaccine that protects against serious infections that cause pneumonia, meningitis and bloodstream infections (sepsis).

Who should receive the pneumococcal vaccine?

One of two vaccines can be used based on your age and medical history. The vaccines are Prevnar and Pneumovax:

1. Prevnar (also known as PCV13)

  • Adults age 65 and older
  • People age six-64 with certain medical conditions such as asplenia, chronic heart or lung disease, sickle cell disease, cochler impants and those with a compromise immune system
  • Most adults did not receive this vaccine as a child. It has only been part of the recommended primary childhood vaccine series since August, 2014
  • Adults age 65 and older
  • People age two and older with certain high risk medical conditions such as asplenia, chronic heart or lung disease, sickle cell disease, cochler impants and those with a compromise immune system
  • Adults age 19-64 who smoke or have asthma

2. Pneumovax (also known as PPSV23)

  • It is recommended that people receive both vaccines one year apart, starting with Prevnar. However, if Pneumovax was given first, Prevnar is still recommended.

Why is it important to receive the pneumococcal vaccines?

In just eight months (from January to August 2015), there were 90 cases of pneumococcal disease in Nebraska, affecting all ages — 19 of those cases were in 20 to 49 year olds and 66 of the cases were in people age 50 and older.

Talk to a Doctor About Vaccines

These vaccines are not only important for you, but also for those around you. Schedule an appointment with a doctor today to discuss which vaccines are recommended for you and your children.

Michael Sayers, MD

Michael Sayers, MD

Health Expert

Michael Sayers, MD, is a board certified doctor with Family Medicine of Lincoln, part of the Bryan Physician Network.

Learn More About Michael Sayers, MD

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