5 vaccines all grandparents need

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5 vaccines all grandparents need

Whether you’re expecting your first or fifteenth grandchild, even grandparents need to be up-to-date on their vaccinations.  Vaccinations are not just for babies and children – all adults (parents or not) should get vaccinated for preventable diseases. 

We all know the importance of an immunization schedule for babies and their parents.  But we often may forget that one of the most important people in a child’s life is their grandparents.  Even though people of all ages get sick, older adults and young infants are especially vulnerable to potentials serious disease. When grandparents make sure they have been vaccinated properly protecting themselves from diseases, they will be giving a valuable gift to their grandchild, protecting them also. 

So before you cuddle and hold your next new grandchild, here are five vaccines you should discuss with your doctor about getting beforehand.  Your grandchildren have to rely on you and everyone around them to help keep them safe from these dangerous diseases. 

1.  Tdap or pertussis vaccine

Tdap stands for tetanus (also known as lockjaw), diphtheria (a respiratory infection), and pertussis (whooping cough).  Most adults have been vaccinated for these diseases in the past but over time their effectiveness fades.  Pertussis is frequently underdiagnosed in adults as it tends to have milder symptoms.  But even if symptoms are mild, a grandparent can easily pass the bacteria on to other people including infants.   Newborns are especially vulnerable to these illnesses during the first 6 weeks of their life since they are not old enough to be vaccinated for them.  Roughly half of all babies under a year of age who get pertussis have to be hospitalized.  The tetanus booster is recommended every 10 years but the Tdap is given only once.

2.  Influenza vaccine

We may forget how serious getting influenza or the flu is but it is and can be a potentially dangerous and deadly respiratory virus.  Each year in the U.S. anywhere from 12,000 to 56,000 people die due to flu and hundreds of thousands will be hospitalized.  The flu is easily spread and that is why the flu vaccine is the only vaccine recommended for everyone over 6 months of age to be vaccinated, with very few exceptions.

It is vital that grandparents be vaccinated against the flu every year, not only to protect themselves but also their grandchildren.  Until babies can be vaccinated at the age of 6 months, they are at the mercy of people around them to be vaccinated to keep them safe.  Since the influenza virus can circulate year round, adults should still have gotten their flu vaccine within the last 12 months especially if they are going to be around kids under the age of 2.

3.  Herpes Zoster or shingles vaccine

Any grandparent over the age of 60 needs to discuss with their doctor about getting the shingles shot, even if they have already had shingles at some point in their life.

Even though a person cannot give shingles to a child, they can still give them chickenpox.  The reason is because shingles and chickenpox are caused by the same virus.  Almost everyone born before 1980 has been infected with chickenpox.  The chickenpox virus stays dormant in the body and can reactivate later in life to cause shingles.  Therefore, when a person has shingles, they can spread the virus to someone who has not had chickenpox or been vaccinated against it yet.

Both diseases have rashes but shingles rash is usually more painful and can last for weeks, months, or even years after the rash goes away.  Chickenpox in children is usually mild but it can still be dangerous.  So until your grandchild is old enough to get the vaccine for chickenpox, make sure you are vaccinated for shingles.

4.  Measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine

Measles was eliminated from the U.S. over a decade ago, but recently measles outbreaks that started at Disneyland has now spread to more than 14 states.  Measles is actually commonplace in much of the world and remains a leading cause of death in small children worldwide, killing more than 100,000 people every year.  With more and more parents choosing not to vaccinate their children, measles is beginning to make a comeback and there is no sign of it slowing down anytime soon. 

Measles is highly contagious spreading very quickly within a community that has not been vaccinated against it.  Since the first series of MMR vaccine is not given until around the age of one, babies are at a higher risk if exposed to this virus. 

5.  Pneumococcus vaccine

Pneumococcus - a bacterium that can cause pneumonia – is one condition that can actually be transmitted from young kids to older adults. In this case, older adults are at a greater risk of serious pneumococcal infections and even death.  In children, pneumococcus can lead to mild illnesses like ear infections or more rarely, meningitis.  But in older adults, pneumococcus is a leading cause of pneumonia, with an estimated 900,000 cases occurring every year in the U. S.

More than 90 percent of U.S. children under age 3 are fully vaccinated against pneumococcus, yet the rate is much lower for adults over age 65.  Since there are two types of pneumococcal vaccines, it is very important for older adults to discuss with their doctor about which one to get.