August is National Immunization Awareness Month and U.S. vaccination rates have plenty of room for improvement. Nationwide, at least one third of Americans 65 and older have not been vaccinated against pneumonia. Only two thirds of adults ages 19-64 have had a tetanus shot in the past 10 years and more than half of those are not aware if their last shot contained a booster for whooping cough. Vaccination rates in children are higher than adults, so I will focus on adult vaccines.
Flu shots are recommended yearly for all adults and children older than six months. Tetanus and diphtheria shots (Td) are recommended every ten years. Tdap includes protection against pertussis (whooping cough) and is recommended to replace one Td dose in adults.
The herpes zoster (shingles) vaccine is a one-time shot to reduce the chance of getting shingles. In those individuals who receive the vaccine and still develop shingles, they typically have less pain. It is recommended in adults 60 years or older who do not have suppressed immune systems. This includes adults who report a previous history of shingles, although its effectiveness in this population has not been studied.
The pneumonia vaccine is aimed at protecting against the strep pneumonia bacteria. This bacteria is one, but not the only, cause of pneumonia in adults. It also causes meningitis. The pneumonia vaccine is recommended in adults ages 19-64 who smoke or have diabetes, COPD, asthma, liver disease, no spleen, or have a history of alcoholism. It is recommended in all adults 65 or older. A second shot may be needed if you have had the shot before age 65 and it is has been more than ﬁve years since the ﬁrst shot.
Protect yourself and your loved ones; talk to your family doctor and make sure you are current on your vaccinations.