One of the greatest achievements of the 20th century has to be the discovery of vaccinations. Diseases like polio, diphtheria, tetanus, or smallpox have become part of history. However, the only way to ensure that they do not reoccur is to continue to keep immunizations current for us and our loved ones. The elderly, medically fragile and those who are immunocompromised are at greatest risk for contracting these viruses.
The immunizations that take highest priority are Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR), DTaP/DTP (Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis), Inactivated Poliovirus Vaccine (IPV), Varicella Vaccine (VAR), Meningococcal conjugate vaccines, quadrivalent (MCV4), Rotavirus Vaccine (RV), and Haemophilus Influenza Type B Conjugate Vaccine (Hib). These are usually given during childhood.
In recent years, Hepatitis A (HepA), Hepatitis B (HepB), Influenza vaccines, and Pneumococcal vaccines have been added to the regimen as the incidence of these diseases has become of greater concern. In addition, Pure Protein Derivative (PPD) is done at least annually to test for TB exposure.
Here is a synopsis of each vaccine and how often they are required through a lifetime:
MMR - complete after 2 dose series is administered
DTaP - Every 10 years after initial 4 dose series is administered
IPV - complete after 4 dose series is administered
VAR - complete after 2 dose series is administered
MCV4 - complete after 2 dose series is administered
RV - complete after 3 dose series is administered
Hib - complete after 3 dose series if administered
HepA - complete after 2 dose series is administered
HepB - complete after 3 dose series is administered
Influenza - annually
Pneumococcal - every 5 years for a maximum of 2 doses
PPD - every year or as needed (an X-ray is done every 3 years if a PPD shows a positive result)
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has also printed guidelines for who should not be vaccinated. Consult your physician if you are pregnant or nursing, if you are acutely ill, are over age 50 or younger than 17. There is also a caution for those who cannot swallow doses that come in pill form.
Anthrax and Influenza vaccinations are not recommended for anyone who has or has had Guillain-Barre Syndrome. Anyone who has had a life-threatening allergic reaction to any vaccine should not repeat another dose.
Hepatitis A vaccine contains alum and 2-phenoxyethanol, so it is not recommended for someone who has a latex allergy. Hepatitis B vaccine contains yeast, so should not be taken if you are allergic to that component.
Consider that inactivated influenza vaccinations contain ingredients derived from eggs. The live vaccine for influenza should not be taken by anyone with asthma, heart, lung, kidney or liver disease, diabetes or any other metabolic disease, blood disorders, muscle or nerve disorders or a weakened immune system.
MMR and Varicella vaccines should not be taken by anyone who has an allergic reaction to gelatin or the antibiotic neomycin. They are not recommended for anyone who has HIV/AIDS, is taking steroids, has cancer or has been treated for cancer, has a low platelet count or has recently had a transfusion.
The best advice is to always talk to your doctor before taking any vaccination. Do your research and be informed about what vaccines contain and how they may affect your body. Be especially vigilant when you are chronically ill or you have a weakened immune system. You are your best advocate, so take care of yourself.