Nov. 9, 2016
‘Tis the season to gather and share pumpkin pie, fun with family and
friends, and, unfortunately, bugs that can make people very sick. Physicians
urge everyone to get a few key vaccinations now — before holiday gatherings — to
help keep holidays healthy for the whole family, from the babies to the grandparents.
“Making sure you’re protected from serious, possibly deadly, diseases
helps prevent you from passing on an illness, like flu, that might prove much
worse for a loved one,” said Erica Swegler, MD, an Austin family physician and member
of the Texas Medical Association’s (TMA’s) Be Wise — ImmunizeSM Physician
Advisory Panel. Infants, pregnant women, and the elderly are among those most
at risk for developing a serious complication from an infectious disease that
could be passed unintentionally to them.
The vaccinations that can most protect you and others
this holiday season are:
- Influenza (or flu): Everyone six months of age and
older, including pregnant women, needs a yearly shot.
- Tdap (protects against tetanus/lockjaw, diphtheria,
and pertussis/whooping cough): Pregnant women need this shot in the third
trimester of every pregnancy to protect their infant. Other adults need this
shot once, then a Td every 10 years. Children and teens who are up to date on
their vaccinations should have received this shot as part of their childhood
and adolescent vaccinations.
Whooping cough, or pertussis, is especially dangerous for infants. The Texas Department of
State Health Services says more than half of babies under 1 year of age who
get pertussis must be hospitalized. Many will have serious complications, like
pneumonia or apnea (slowed or stopped breathing), and some become so sick they
die. That’s why pregnant woman are encouraged to get a pertussis booster shot
during pregnancy, to protect their newborn infant.
However, infants can catch pertussis from other family members
or caregivers. Pertussis symptoms in teens and adults can be mild, so a parent,
sibling, cousin, or an aunt or uncle might unknowingly spread pertussis to a
“If you’ll have an infant at your holiday gatherings, it’s especially
important other family members are up to date with their shots because the
babies are too young to get vaccinated for some illnesses,” said C. Mary Healy,
MD, another member of TMA’s Be Wise — Immunize Physician Advisory Panel.
because babies require a series of pertussis vaccinations, they are not fully
protected from whooping cough until they’re close to 18 months of age.
poses a threat, too. Babies can’t get vaccinated for flu until they are
at least six months old. Flu shots are recommended for everyone older than six
months, including pregnant women.
they can get their shots, babies rely on the vaccinations of those around them
to avoid catching serious diseases, said Dr. Healy, a pediatric infectious disease specialist
in Houston. And for both flu and whooping cough shots, your body needs about
two weeks to develop the best protection, so you shouldn’t wait to get
vaccinated, added Dr. Healy.
Flu can be
serious for many people, from the young to the old. According to the Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 20,000 U.S. children younger than 5 years of age end up in the hospital each year
because of flu complications, such as pneumonia. Nearly 70 percent of
hospitalizations from flu-related illness are in people who are over age 65. And most (up to 85 percent)
flu-related deaths are among the elderly. Flu
can also cause pregnant women to go into labor early.
“Vaccinations are one of the easiest and safest ways
to protect yourself and those around you from getting sick,” said Dr. Swegler.
“Don’t sideline yourself or someone else from holiday festivities this year by
passing along an illness that could have been prevented … and try to keep your
distance (about 6 feet) from anyone who shows up sick at
a holiday gathering to avoid catching germs from their sneezing or
coughing,” said Dr. Swegler.
Based on your age and health conditions, vaccinations
are needed throughout your life to protect you from illnesses like pneumonia
and shingles. Check with your doctor to make sure you’ve had all the shots you
these resources, in English and Spanish, for more information:
TMA is the largest state
medical society in the nation, representing more than 49,000 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 Foundation
raises funds to support the public health and science priority initiatives of
TMA and the Family of Medicine.
TMA actively works to
improve immunization rates in Texas through its
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 300,000 shots have been given to Texas
children, adolescents, and adults through the Be Wise program since 2004.
Be Wise — Immunize is a
joint initiative led by TMA physicians, medical students, and the TMA Alliance.
It is funded by TMA Foundation thanks to major gifts from H-E-B and TMF Health
Quality Institute, along with generous contributions from physicians and their
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