Protect Those Who Can’t Get Vaccinated: A Holiday Season Guide

 

ChristmasThe holidays are coming up, and that means reconnecting with family and friends—and meeting new family members (newborns anyone?). Some of those loved ones might not be eligible for the Center for Disease Control’s full vaccination schedule: infants, pregnant women, and immunocompromised individuals are all encouraged to refrain from certain vaccinations. The same is true for individuals allergic to ingredients found in certain vaccinations.

If you can receive vaccinations, it’s vital you’re up to date on the CDC’s full schedule this holidays season. Missed all or most of your immunizations? Check out our guide to catching up. Just want to double check? Talk to a healthcare professional‚start by asking about these five shots.

Flu Shot
The CDC recommends everyone six months or older get a flu shot, and that’s never more important than during the holidays. Infants, pregnant women and immunocompromised individuals are all at a greater risk for severe complications from the flu. Yes, those are the same groups that are likely to be ineligible for certain vaccines—be sure to get your shot before the turkey’s carved.

Tdap
This vaccine protects against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (whooping cough), and the CDC recommends it for everyone. Even if you were vaccinated as a child, you should receive at least one dose of Tdap after age 18 for pertussis, and then a tetanus booster every 10 years. Whooping cough can be fatal to infants, so make sure you’re protected before meeting your cousin’s new bundle of joy. You need to get Tdap even if you got whooping cough or the whooping cough vaccine as a child, because your immunity dwindles over time.

Pneumococcal
Grandma and grandpa, this one’s for you. The elderly and infants are the most vulnerable to Pneumococcal disease, which can lead to ear infections, pneumonia and meningitis. Your new granddaughter might not be able to get the shot yet, but you can; the CDC recommends the immunization for anyone 65 or older.

Shingles
This is another disease that the elderly is at risk for. Shingles starts with a painful rash, often on the face or torso. The rash forms blisters that take weeks to fully clear up—the pain can stick around for months. Again, it’s the grandparents’ job to make sure everyone is protected.

HPV
The holidays aren’t just for family: There’s plenty of time for friends…and more than friends. Human Papilloma Virus is a sexually-transmitted virus that can cause cancers in both men and women. It’s best to get vaccinated at age 11-12, long before you’re even thinking about becoming sexually active, but you can get the vaccine up to age 26. If you’re under 26 and haven’t been vaccinated against HPV, ask your doctor about this vaccine ASAP. 

Separating Fact from Fiction: 4 Signs an Immunization Website Is Spreading Misinformation

As a parent, it’s natural to do your homework before getting your kids up to date on their vaccinations. The problem? With so many websites posting conflicting information, it’s hard to separate fact from fiction. Fortunately, it’s easy to decide which sites to trust if you know a few simple tricks. Here are four signs a website is spreading unreliable immunization information. GoogleSearch

1. It Links Vaccines to Autism
Do vaccines cause autism? It’s a common fear among parents, and a common claim on untrustworthy vaccination websites. But study after study has shown that there is simply no truth to this claim. If a website claims there is any link between vaccines and autism, look elsewhere for your facts.

2. It Misinterprets Science
Many untrustworthy vaccination sites do rely on credible, peer-reviewed studies for their information, but then they misinterpret the results to come to inaccurate conclusions. Unfortunately, if you’re not familiar with the study at hand, there’s no quick way to spot this. If something seems fishy (linking vaccines to autism, for example), do a little digging. Google the study and see what other publications have to say about it.

3. It Confuses Correlation and Causationautism_organic_foods
It’s understood in the scientific community that correlation does not imply causation—just because two things happen at the same time doesn’t mean one is causing the other. So while it’s true that vaccination rates and autism rates have risen at the same time, that does not prove that vaccines are causing autism or are linked in any way. There are many reasons for two things to correspond, but causal relationships are demonstrated through long-term and large-scale research and analysis, involving years, large numbers of people and many studies

4. It Offers Anecdotes as Proof
Personal stories of children claimed to be harmed by vaccinations can be powerful, engaging, and compelling. What they are not is scientific. Again, the safety of vaccinations has been shown repeatedly through large-scale controlled scientific studies. Vaccine reactions are monitored and studied very closely, and while it’s possible for severe allergic reactions to occur after vaccination, the odds of them happening are less than 1 in 1 million — so rare that it’s difficult to tell whether the vaccine is actually the cause. Stories of these reactions — while heartbreaking — are not the norm. Be particularly wary of stories with vague symptoms or a laundry-list of complaints claiming to be attributed to vaccination, as there likely is some other causal factors at play.

An easy way to know you are getting correct information? Read our roundups of trustworthy Facebook and Twitter accounts to follow, and start your research there.  

Over 60? Ask Your Doctor About These 4 Vaccines

As you get older, you need to pay closer attention to your health, and vaccinations are a vital part of that. Due to a weakening immune system and new developments in immunization, there are a host of vaccines the elderly should ask about. Talk to a healthcare professional to see what’s right for you. Make sure you ask about these four shots:

Tdap
This vaccine protects against, tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (whooping cough), and the CDC recommends that everyone over the age of 18 get it at least once, followed by a tetanus-containing vaccine every 10 years. Even if you were vaccinated against whooping cough as a child, your immunity to the disease may have dwindled over time, leaving you unprotected. This vaccine is important because whooping cough can be very dangerous for small children and infants, and it is often transmitted to small kids from adults (ex. doting grandparents) who might not even know they’re infected. If there’s even a chance you’ll be around small kids, you’ll want to be up to date on this one. Note: not all tetanus vaccines contain the pertussis component, so be sure to specifically request the Tdap vaccine.

Flu Shot
The CDC recommends that everyone over 6 months gets an annual flu shot. The virus mutates rapidly, plus the body’s resistance to the virus declines over time; an annual dose is essential. You need to stick to this now more than ever—for those over 65, the flu can result in hospitalization and even death. The flu kills an average of more than 23,000 people in the U.S. every year — most of them older adults — and thousands more are hospitalized. As you get older, your immune system needs a little extra help, so be sure to ask your healthcare provider about receiving a high dose flu vaccine, which has been shown to be more effective in those over 65.  

Pneumococcal
Due to a weakening immune system the elderly are more vulnerable to Pneumococcal disease. It’s an infection caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria and can result in several serious illnesses and conditions, including pneumonia and meningitis. Because it can lead to severe complications, and sometimes death, it’s nothing to take lightly. The vaccine is recommended for those 65 and older.

Shingles (Zoster)
Shingles starts with a painful rash, often on the face or torso. The rash forms blisters that take weeks to fully clear up, and the pain can stick around for months. The risk of shingles increases as you get older, so the CDC recommends everyone 60 or older gets immunized against this nasty disease.

8 Excuses for Skipping the HPV Vaccine—Debunked

The vaccine for the Human Papilloma (HPV) Virus is one of the most important—and perhaps most misunderstood—immunizations we have. The Center for Disease Control recommends that all adolescents get this vaccine at ages 11 to 12, but adherence rates are alarmingly low: infographics - statistics-hpvOnly 60 percent of girls and 42 percent of boys have received the first of three necessary doses by age 17.  Several misconceptions keep the rate so low; here are five excuses to skip the vaccine, and why they’re bunk.  

I’m Worried About the Safety and Side Effects of the Vaccine
As with any medical intervention, side effects are a possibility with the HPV vaccine, but studies have shown this vaccine is very, very safe. Side effects are almost always mild, and the most common side effects are minor symptoms like a sore arm. Despite what you might see on social media, no serious reactions have been scientifically linked to the vaccine. The HPV vaccine has been shown to be just as safe as other vaccines given during adolescence.

HPV Isn’t a Big Deal
While most cases do clear up on their own, some cases develop into cancer. The kicker: there’s no way to predict which cases will lead to cancer and which won’t. That’s why every case of HPV is a big deal.

My Doctor Didn’t Mention It, So It Can’t Be That Important
Unfortunately, many doctor’s aren’t recommending the HPV vaccine in a timely fashion—26 percent of them do not recommend it for girls by 11 or 12, and 39 percent don’t mention it to boys of the same age. A lot of docs say this is because they expect discussing the vaccine with parents to be uncomfortable (because it protects from an STD and is administered to preteens). Uncomfortable or not, it’s vital for you to get the shots; bring it up yourself if your doctor hasn’t already.

I’m a Guy
While most people have probably heard HPV can cause cervical cancer, it can also cause a number of cancers in men, including anal, penile and head and neck cancers. And while pap tests can help screen for early signs of cervical cancer, there is no screening options available for HPV-related cancers in men. That’s why vaccination is so critical. 

I’m Too Old
The CDC does recommend that everyone get their doses at 11 or 12—it’s most effective when administered well before sexual activity begins. But the shots are still recommended for young people who missed this window (up through age 21 for men and 26 for women). And if you are in a high-risk group (if you have multiple partners, or you’re a man who has sex with men), the shots are recommended through age 26.

I’m Not Sexually Active
HPV is a sexually transmitted disease, but the vaccine is actually most effective when administered before someone is sexually active. That’s one of the reasons it’s recommended in early adolescence.  Rather than waiting until you’re sexually active, get it now. When you do become sexually active (including engaging in oral sex), you know you’ll be fully protected.

I’m Not in a High-Risk Category
It’s true, men who have sex with men and those with multiple partners have a greater risk of contracting HPV than the general population. But all it takes to expose yourself is sleeping with one infected person. In fact, the CDC estimates that about one in four people in the U.S. are currently infected and nearly all sexually active adults will get HPV at some point in their lives—it’s an incredibly common virus, and everyone needs to be protected.

I Use Condoms
As with any STD, condoms are an important HPV prevention tool, but they don’t offer full protection. While the virus can’t be spread through latex, it can infect portions of the genitals that condoms don’t cover. Safe sex is not enough to protect yourself from HPV.