Sept. 9, 2015
Grandparents are an important part of children’s lives. Even
before grandbabies are born, grandparents can help protect them from disease by
getting themselves vaccinated. For Grandparents Day on Sept. 13, Texas Medical
Association (TMA) physicians urge grandparents to make sure their shots are up
“Grandparents want what’s best for their grandchildren,” said
Katharina Hathaway, MD, a family physician in Austin and a member of TMA’s Be
Wise — ImmunizeSM Physician Advisory Panel. “Vaccinations
can help in two very important ways: preventing grandparents from passing on a
potentially deadly illness to a baby and keeping grandparents healthy to keep
up with their grandkids.”
Adults may need as many as 10
vaccinations, but two in particular are recommended for seniors:
pneumococcal, which prevents infections in the lungs and bloodstream, and
meningitis; and zoster, which protects against shingles, a painful rash. Two others are recommended for
all adults: a yearly flu shot and a vaccination for pertussis (whooping cough).
Babies under 1 year old are at high risk for catching whooping cough. It is so severe in
infants that more than half of babies who get it end up in the hospital with complications like
pneumonia. And many of whooping cough’s tiny victims die.
Babies require a series of
pertussis vaccinations, so they’re not fully protected until close to 18 months
of age. Dr. Hathaway said grandparents can
avoid passing on the highly contagious yet preventable whooping cough to
newborns by getting vaccinated.
vaccination (a combination vaccination that protects against tetanus,
diphtheria, and pertussis) is recommended for anyone who will be around a baby,
including grandparents. Adolescents and adults should get the shot at least two
weeks before visiting the baby to have full protection. Physicians call it “cocooning,” vaccinating those who will be near a
vulnerable newborn to surround the infant in a vaccination “cocoon.”
“As we get older, our immune systems tend to weaken,”
said Dr. Hathaway. “That means adults need a vaccine boost because they are
more prone to catching certain diseases, several of which you can prevent
pneumonia, an infection of the lungs, affects about 1 million Americans
each year, and sends about half of them to the hospital, according to the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Experts recommend a
pneumococcal shot for adults over 65 years and for younger adults with certain
A yearly influenza
vaccination is recommended for anyone over six months of age. Influenza,
or seasonal flu, is especially serious for adults over 65. The CDC says nearly
three-quarters of people hospitalized with flu-related illness are 65 or older,
and most flu deaths are among elderly people. Two flu vaccines are available
for that age group: the regular flu shot or a high-dose version with four times
the protection. Ask your doctor which is right for you.
People who have had chickenpox are at risk for getting shingles because the same virus
causes both illnesses. Anyone can get shingles after having chickenpox, but the
risk increases with age. About half of the 1 million cases each year are in
adults age 60 or older, reports the CDC. The zoster vaccine is recommended for
adults in this age group to help prevent shingles.
Physicians suggest you check with your doctor to see if your
vaccinations are up to date. TMA has published a fact sheet about vaccinations for
adults, in English and Spanish.
TMA is the largest state medical society in the nation, representing
more than 48,000 physician and medical student members. It is located in Austin
and has 110 component county medical societies around the state. TMA’s key
objective since 1853 is to improve the health of all Texans.
TMA actively works to improve immunization rates in Texas through its
Be Wise — ImmunizeSM program. Be Wise works with local communities
to give free and low-cost shots to Texans, and educate people about the
importance of vaccination. More than 280,000 shots have been given to Texas
children, adolescents, and adults through the Be Wise program since 2004.
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Be Wise — Immunize is a service mark of
the Texas Medical Association.
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