Guest writer: Joel Giles, PharmD | Clinical Pharmacy Sales Manager | King Soopers & City Market
October is an ideal month to receive your flu vaccine. The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends that all people 6 months and older receive an influenza vaccination annually. If you have not gotten your “flu shot” this year, please do so in the coming weeks before viral flu infections increase and the disease spreads throughout the country.
When you visit a pharmacy or clinic for your flu shot, ask the immunization provider to review your additional vaccination needs. Most adults are unaware of their current vaccination history and unclear about other vaccines that the ACIP recommends. Here are a few to consider:
- Tdap (Brand Names: Boostrix® and Adacel®)
This vaccine is a traditional Tetanus booster with an additional pertussis (whooping cough) component. Pertussis is a highly contagious disease and an infection in the very young and very old can lead to poor outcomes, including death. The ACIP recommends this vaccine as a one-time dose for all adults who have never received the vaccine. It is designed to replace the every ten year spacing of Tetanus boosters. Additionally, all pregnant women receive the vaccine with each pregnancy in the third trimester. All family members (mothers, fathers, grandparents, aunts, uncles) and caregivers of infant children should receive the vaccine to provide a “circle of protection” around the child.
- Pneumonia Vaccines (Brand Names: Pneumovax® and Prevnar®)
All adults 65 and older should now receive two different doses of pneumococcal vaccines, one dose of Pneumovax and one dose of Prevnar. Recent data suggests that adults 65 and older who received a dose of both vaccines were better protected against pneumococcal infections than adults who received just one dose of either vaccine alone. So, if you received a “Pneumonia shot” in the past (likely a Pneumovax vaccine) and you were over the age of 65, you now need to receive a dose of the Prevnar vaccine. If you are 65 and over and you have never received any kind of pneumococcal vaccine, you need to receive a dose of Prevnar first, wait a year, and then receive a single-dose of Pneumovax. These are the only two doses of pneumonia vaccines that seniors require, and they do not need to be repeated at any time. Medicare Part B covers both vaccines at no cost to the patient. Finally, adults under the age of 65 who are receiving treatment for chronic medical conditions such as diabetes, heart failure, COPD, asthma, kidney disease, and liver disease should receive a dose of Pneumovax.
- Shingles Vaccine (Brand Name: Zostavax®)
Adults 50 years of age and older may elect to receive Zostavax to prevent shingles or to reduce the severity of shingles should an outbreak occur. Shingles is a reactivation of the chicken pox virus (varicella) as a painful condition known as herpes zoster. Even if you never developed acute symptoms of chicken pox (rash, lesions, itching) in your lifetime, nearly all adults have been exposed to the chicken pox virus and are subsequently carriers of the virus within their nervous systems that can reemerge as “shingles”. All adults should receive one dose of the vaccine after the age of 50, and it is best to receive the vaccine in the fifth or sixth decade of life as the body will mount a better immune response than if the vaccine is received in one’s 70’s, 80’s, or 90’s.
As you make the effort to visit a provider for your flu shot, consider these vaccine related needs at that time. It will save you time and avoid missed vaccination opportunities. All of these vaccines may be administered at the same visit, and are given in different locations of the upper arms.