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Immunizations for Every Life Stage

mother-1171569_1920Although no one looks forward to getting a shot, the development of vaccines has revolutionized healthcare in the United States and worldwide by preventing the spread of life-threatening diseases. Vaccines are often thought of as something primarily received in childhood, but people of all ages can reap the benefits of immunization, and help protect friends, family members, and the greater population along the way. Read on to learn more about the vaccines you should consider through the various stages in life!

Infancy and Childhood:

Americans receive the bulk of their immunizations during infancy and childhood, which lays the foundation for a healthy immune system and creates resistance to debilitating – or even deadly – conditions. Immunization during infancy and childhood is especially important because it helps to ensure that the general U.S. population retains its immunity to various illnesses (referred to as “herd immunity”) so that individuals who cannot receive vaccines due to poor health, allergies, or other factors remain protected. Vaccines commonly administered during infancy include the following:

Poliovirus: Poliovirus causes malformation and paralysis of the limbs, and resulted in thousands of cases of disability among American children until vaccine usage eradicated the disease in the United States in 1979.
Hepatitis A and B: Both Hepatitis A and B attack the liver, leading to liver failure, cirrhosis or cancer. Hepatitis B vaccines are generally given at birth, while Hepatitis A is administered after the child has reached one year of age.

Rotavirus: This gastrointestinal illness causes severe vomiting and diarrhea in children, often resulting in potentially life-threatening dehydration. Rotavirus vaccines were introduced in 2006, and are typically given between two and four months of age.

Diphtheria, Tetanus and Pertussis (Whooping Cough): DPT vaccines are administered to infants at two, four and six months of age to prevent this trio of serious illnesses. Diphtheria affects mucus membranes and can cause breathing problems, paralysis, heart failure, and death. Tetanus is acquired from the environment, and causes muscle tightening throughout the body, lockjaw, and occasionally, death. Pertussis is characterized by violent coughing, and can cause infants to stop breathing. In fact, the disease can be so severe that about 50% of infants with pertussis will ultimately require hospital care.

Measles, Mumps and Rubella: Measles is a rash-causing virus that has the potential to lead to severe complications like brain damage and pneumonia, and may even cause death. Mumps is characterized by a swelling of the salivary glands, and can result in inflammation of the ovaries, testicles, or the tissue covering the brain and spinal cord. Rubella causes a rash and flu-like symptoms, and can lead to miscarriages or birth defects in pregnant women.

Haemophilus Influenza (Hib): Hib is a bacterial infection that was the leading cause of meningitis for children under 5 years old before a vaccine existed. Meningitis is a potentially-fatal infection of the lining of the brain and spinal cord.

Varicella: Also called “Chicken Pox,” Varicella is an illness that creates an itchy rash of fluid-filled blisters, often with a high fever, and lasts 5-10 days. Young children, immune-suppressed individuals, and pregnant women are at risk of complications of Varicella, which can include pneumonia, serious infections, and even death.

Pneumococcal Conjugate: This vaccine prevents infection by the Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria, which can cause symptoms ranging from ear infections and pneumonia to bloodstream infections. Children under age two are especially susceptible, and should be vaccinated.

Pre-Teens, Teens and Adults:

Immunization recommendations for adolescents and adults are more limited than those for children, as older individuals may have already been exposed to illnesses for which vaccines are available. Nonetheless, adolescents and adults can benefit greatly from both “booster” vaccines that enhance the effect of immunizations they may have received in childhood, and recently-developed vaccines that prevent or decrease the severity of ailments likely to be encountered later in life. Healthcare providers may have additional recommended vaccinations for individuals who never received certain childhood vaccinations, pregnant women, and caregivers of immunocompromised people.

Human Papillomavirus (HPV): The HPV vaccine is generally recommended for males and females aged 11 to 27. The HPV vaccine specifically protects against strains of HPV that cause health problems like cancer and genital warts. HPV is one of the most common sexually-transmitted infections, so early vaccination is recommended to build immunity before potential exposure.

Meningococcal: This vaccine protects against multiple organisms that cause meningitis, and is typically given in the pre-teen years. A booster may be required during the late teenage years, particularly if an individual will be living in close quarters with others (such as a dorm or military barracks), where exposure is more likely.

Tdap Booster: Individuals should receive an additional Tdap vaccine every ten years to protect against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis. Booster vaccines are especially important for those who are pregnant, or spend time with infants, young children, or people with weakened immune systems.

Zoster: Adults over age 60 who have never had “chicken pox” or a previous Varicella immunization should be vaccinated against Herpes Zoster, or “shingles.” This illness causes a large rash, often with a fever, upset stomach, and chills. Older adults are more prone to a complication called post-herpetic neuralgia, which results in severe pain in the area of their shingles rash even after the rash has healed.

Pneumococcal Polysaccharide: Adults over age 65 should be vaccinated against Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria to decrease the risk of pneumonia. Additionally, adults 19-64 who smoke or have asthma should also consider pneumonia vaccination.

All Populations:

Some vaccinations are recommended for all age groups – your healthcare provider can provide specific guidance to you and your family on which vaccines to receive.

Influenza: An annual flu vaccine is recommended for individuals over 6 months of age. As flu viruses mutate regularly, a yearly flu shot is necessary to ensure you are protected against the most common strain of flu circulating during that particular season.

Travel Immunizations: Individuals traveling to other countries should consult their healthcare providers for guidance on necessary vaccinations. Immunization availability and requirements overseas often differ greatly from those in the U.S., so understanding common conditions and vaccinations in the region where you are traveling can help ensure you are prepared – and protected.

Immunizations reduce the incidences of severe illnesses and save lives of all ages. Visit www.cdc.gov to learn more about specific vaccines and the conditions they prevent, or contact your Crittenton healthcare provider to ensure you and your family are up to date on your shots!








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