Immunizations: Not just for kids

More than just a flu shot

Karen Miller | 10/4/2013, 2:06 p.m.

The shingles vaccine protects not only the recipient, but others as well. If an adult or child has direct contact with the shingles rash on an afflicted person and has not had chickenpox as a child or a chickenpox vaccine, that person can develop chickenpox, not shingles.

Barbara Walters found that out the hard way. The 84-year-old broadcaster apparently never had chickenpox as a child and developed the disease from close contact with a person who had shingles.

Those with active cases should avoid physical contact with anyone who has a weak immune system, newborns and pregnant women.

Only one inoculation of Zoster is recommended at this time – even for those who have suffered a bout of shingles.

One other vaccine is recommended for older adults. “Older people — even those older than 65 — should get a Tdap if around young children,” advised Minter-Jordan.

Tdap is a booster for tetanus, diphtheria and accelular pertussis (whooping cough). It has been found that the protection against these illnesses wanes with time. Grandparents that care for their grandchildren and those who work in day care centers should be vaccinated.

“Others who aren’t around young children can get the Tdap or Td booster,” she explained. The Td booster is recommended every 10 years for everyone to guard against tetanus and diphtheria.

Recommendations are one thing, but compliance is another. The Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) found that in 2012, only 64 percent of elderly residents in Massachusetts had received a flu shot the previous year, and 70 percent had been vaccinated against pneumonia.

More disturbing is the disparity in those who benefit from these vaccines. The BRFSS found that while the overall rate of seniors who received a flu shot in 2012 was lower than desired, it was lowest among blacks (52 percent) and Hispanics (54 percent) as compared to whites. (65 percent).Roughly fifty percent of blacks and Hispanics were immunized against pneumonia versus 73 percent of whites.

Though baby boomers might think that the days of vaccinations are way behind them, it’s clear that is not the case.