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Adult Vaccines

Before your kids went back to school this year, you checked to make sure they were up-to-date on their vaccines. . .but what about yours?  There are now many vaccines to prevent diseases in adults and children that not only weren't required when we went to kindergarten, they weren't yet developed!  The best thing to do is to ask your doctor if you're up-to-date on the standard shots and if there are other vaccines that would be in your best interests.

We think of vaccines as being given once for life, but those for pneumonia and the flu must be given annually.  The best time for Americans to get their flu shot is October or November; while December is not too late, sooner is still better.  Traditionally, we've emphasized those at highest risk getting vaccinated, but in reality, the flu shot is for anyone over 6 months of age who doesn't want to get the flu!  Certain vaccines also need boosters every 10 years or so, like the tetanus shot.   Have you had chicken pox?  If not, you may want to consider the chicken pox vaccine.  While this is generally a mild and self-limited illness in children, it can be a serious infection in an adult, especially pregnant women.  Are you at risk for Hepatitis B?  You may be surprised:  childcare workers and all health care workers have been added to the list of those who should receive the 3-part vaccine.   

The smallpox vaccine is currently only being offered to certain medical and military personnel, although there are also ongoing clinical trials in which insistent civilians may consider enrolling.

World travelers may have specific vaccine issues to consider, whether it's as simple as remembering that flu season is the opposite time of year in the southern hemisphere than in the northern hemisphere or as complicated as figuring out which specific vaccines may be required or recommended for safari or jungle adventurers.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website (www.cdc.gov) is a good place to look for additional specific information about vaccines for travelers. 

Created: 9/24/2003  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.

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