By Amanda Rogers
After living through a worldwide pandemic, most people have heard more about vaccines than they ever wanted to know. But with people going back to work and school back in session, now is the time to think about COVID, flu and a lot of other vaccinations, some that you may not have considered.
So who should get the shots? Who shouldn’t? And which ones?
Nancy Georgekutty, doctor of family medicine at Methodist Mansfield Medical Center, got to the point about vaccinations.
COVID-19: Infectious disease caused by SARS-CoV-2 virus. Symptoms are mild to moderate respiratory illness to serious illness. Can be fatal.
“It’s never too late to get a COVID shot especially if you’re over 65 years old and those young children back at school,” Georgekutty said. “Ages 6 month and up can get the vaccine. If you have a child that is going to daycare or is immunocompromised, I would definitely say yes, get the vaccine.
“To better protect your child by the time your child goes into an educational institution, they should have it,” she said.
The COVID vaccine requires two separate shots with several weeks between doses, depending upon the patient’s age and the brand of vaccine. But what about boosters?
“If you’ve had both of your COVID shots, then you can take a booster,” she said. “I recommend at least three to six months from your booster shot. If you’ve had COVID, you should wait at least three months to get your COVID shot or booster because you have natural antibodies from having COVID infection.”
There are new strains of the virus coming, too.
“If you are over 65, I do recommend the new booster because it protects you from more variants or if you have any underlying issues that make you more susceptible, then I suggest getting the new booster,” Georgekutty said.
The new boosters are still being reviewed and data is still being collected to determine if more boosters will be required, she said.
Influenza: Respiratory infection caused by influenza viruses. Severity can range from mild to fatal.
Some people have been getting their flu shots every year for decades, while others avoid them like the plague. Can you get them at the same time as the COVID shot?
“You can get them together, but I wouldn’t recommend it,” Georgekutty said. “I would doing it at least three weeks apart.”
Now is a perfect time to get a flu shot, she said.
“Flu shots are offered from the end of August through March, which is the flu season,” Georgekutty said. “Better to get it now so that it protects you through the winter time. It takes four to six weeks to kick in.”
So who should be getting a flu shot?
“From newborn up to 100 years old,” Georgekutty said. “If you have had any allergic reaction to flu shots in the past, then you should discuss it with your primary care doctor. They have vaccines even for those who have had reactions in the past. If you have concerns or underlying conditions, discuss them with your doctor.”
Georgekutty advises getting a flu shot every year.
Shingles: Viral infection that causes a painful rash that can occur anywhere on the body. Caused by the varicella-zoster virus, the same virus that causes chicken pox. Pain can be mild to severe.
So who should get the shingles vaccine?
“Anyone 50 years old or above,” Georgekutty said. “If you have not had chicken pox, you are less likely to get shingles. This is not a live vaccine, so if you never had chicken pox this won’t hurt. Anyone who is having chemo or radiation or who has a current cancer diagnosis, consult your oncologist. People with underlying conditions should also consult their physician.
“Shingles is extremely painful and can even call Bell’s palsy, blindness or hearing loss if it affects the nerves of the face,” she said. “Nobody knows where shingles is going to show up. The shingles shot has 95 percent effectiveness. Shingles severity varies with everyone. The vaccine lasts a lifetime.”
The shingles vaccine is two inoculations separated by two to six months, she said.
Pneumonia: A serious lung infection caused by a bacterial or viral infection where the air sacs fill with pus and may become solid. Can infect one or both lungs or only certain lobes. Severity can range from mild to fatal.
“The new Prevnar 20 vaccine has come out and taken the world by storm,” Georgekutty said. “There are three pneumonia shots out there and they are recommended for people with COPD, asthma, smokers, those with diabetes and immunocomprosed people under age 65.
“Over age 65, anyone can receive pneumonia shot,” she said. “It protects you against all the strains of pneumonia, which can be fatal and put you on a ventilator. It’s one to two shots, depending on the kind that you get.”
Human Papillomavirus: A common virus that can cause cancer later in life.
“Typically this vaccine is recommended for anyone age 9 to 45,” Georgekutty said. “It’s very controvercial. If you give your child the HPV below age 15, it’s only two shots. Over age 15, it’s three shots, separated over a six month span. It is recommended.”
Meningitis A & B
Meningococcal Meningitis: A bacterium that can cause infection. Severity can be mild to fatal.
“Meningitis A is required before entering 7th grade, and before living on a college campus,” Georgekutty said. “The first vaccine is at age 11, the second is age 16-19. You can get shots for both at the same time.”
Tetanus: An infection caused by a bacteria that produces a toxin that causes painful muscle contractions or lockjaw. Can be fatal.
“Vaccine is recommended for ages 2 months old and above,” Georgekutty said. “You get it with the diphtheria and pertussis vaccines.
“At age 11 years and above, you get the tetanus shot,” she said. “It can be given every 10 years There are six doses in adolescence, unless you have had an allergic reaction.
“You need a tetanus shot after any potential puncture of the skin from a foreign object, a cat bite, dog scratch, bee sting,” Georgekutty said. “Tetanus is a disease that causes lockjaw, a blood-borne disease that can be fatal.”
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