When Is a Shot “shot”?

Posted on by

When we talk about immunizations, many of us think of “baby shots” and childhood immunizations.  As vaccines are required by law for children to attend public schools, records are generally available through the educational institution and the pediatrician.  However, there are a number of adult updates and new vaccinations we all should consider. As August is ‘Immunization Awareness Month’, do you know what you need and when you are due?

Meningococcal B vaccine should be considered for adolescent ages 16-18 going to college or other dormitory type environments.  The close quarters of dorm living may put these individuals at risk of Meningitis B.

The human papilloma virus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted in the United States affecting both men and women.  Historically, the significant concern of this disease is known for its role in the development of cervical cancer.  It is also recognized as responsible for genital warts and multiple other cancers of both men and women.  This immunization is recommended for people up to 26 years old.

The tetanus booster is a shot that typically contains an additional component to prevent diphtheria (Td). Once childhood dosing is completed, this should routinely be repeated at least every ten years.  If the person suffers a puncture or other wound, the tetanus should be updated promptly if it has been five years or more since their last shot. There is also a tetanus vaccine that immunizes against pertussis, otherwise called whooping cough (Tdap).   For adults who have not had a preliminary Tdap, it should be done as soon as possible.  This is particularly important for those individuals having contact with younger children, such as grandparents or those in a child care setting.

Flu shots (influenza) are an annual immunization.  Because this shot does not last longer than a year, it should be administered before the flu season every year.   And, as the upcoming flu season may have different strains of viruses from the prior year, the vaccine may change from year to year.  Typically, this shot is given as early as the end of August through October, but can be administered at any time throughout the season.  The nasal sprays are no longer recommended.

As we age, our immune systems weaken over time.  At age 50 or older, the recommendation has been for everyone to get a shingles vaccine.   The recent release of Shingrix is now the currently recommended vaccine.  It is far superior to the older Zostavax that many have already received.  This population is encouraged by the CDC to be re-immunized with Shingrix as soon as possible, and those otherwise due should receive it as well.

There are two recommended pneumonia vaccines available at and after 65 years old.  The Prevnar 13 is generally given first, and the Pneumovax 23 is provided one year later to complete the series.  These vaccines help prevent community acquired pneumonias which become much more likely as well as potentially lethal in the elderly.

These vaccines may have different recommendations of timing and dosing for patients with chronic diseases as well as during pregnancy.  There may be other immunizations appropriate for you individually in addition to these general recommendations.  It is an easy process to catch up on your immune status and maintain your protection against these nasty diseases.  Consider this month what your immunization status may be.  You can receive assistance through the Coconino County Health Department or consult your family physician.  Immunization schedules can be found at https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules/.


Bradford Croft, DO

East Flagstaff Family Medicine