Nov. 1, 2017
Neatly wrapped packages, pies fresh from the oven, and a peck on the
cheek make holiday gatherings merry for the youngest to the oldest. Sadly,
someone’s cough or sneeze could spread a life-threatening illness to grandma or
your new grandbaby whose bodies are less able to fight off infection. That’s
why Texas physicians say making sure your family is up to date on vaccinations,
including flu, is key to keeping everyone healthy this holiday season.
“Making sure your vaccinations are current protects you and others
you’ll be around — from your new niece or nephew to your grandparent in a
nursing home,” said Arathi Shah, MD, a pediatrician based in Arlington and
member of the Texas Medical Association’s (TMA’s) Be Wise — ImmunizeSM Physician
Advisory Panel. “Diseases like flu and whooping cough can’t spread when many
people in a community (and family) are vaccinated.”
Infants, pregnant women, and the elderly are among those most likely to
get sick and develop a serious complication from a vaccine-preventable illness.
Two vaccinations are key to protecting you and others this holiday season:
(or flu): Everyone six months of age and older, including pregnant women, needs
a yearly shot.
(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
(tetanus/diphtheria) every 10 years. Children and teens receive this shot as
part of routine childhood and adolescent vaccinations, so those who are up to
date on their vaccinations should have received this.
Flu season can last from October to May; in most years, it peaks in
December through February. Flu can become serious for anyone. The youngest and
the oldest are most at risk, as are people with chronic medical problems like
asthma or any condition that weakens their body like cancer.
As many as 26,000 U.S. children younger
than 5 years of age have landed in the hospital with pneumonia or
other flu complications annually in recent years, according to the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention. Most flu-related hospitalizations (nearly 70
percent), as well as flu-related deaths, occur in people over age 65.
Babies can’t be vaccinated for flu until they are at least six months
old. That means those around them must protect them from the flu. The flu shot
mom gets during pregnancy protects her and baby until the infant can get
vaccinated, said Dr. Shah.
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
difficulty breathing, which can be life-threatening.
Pregnant woman are urged to get a pertussis shot during pregnancy to
protect their newborn. Family members who will be around an infant also should
get vaccinated against pertussis. Infants often catch pertussis from other
family members or caregivers who don’t know they have it because their symptoms
can be mild.
“Vaccinations are one of the best ways to prevent illness,” said Dr.
Shah. “Don’t miss out on a holiday celebration or keep someone else away by
getting or passing along sickness that could have been avoided — or worse,
unwittingly pass along a potentially deadly illness to a loved one.”
For flu and whooping cough shots, your body needs about two weeks to
develop the strongest protection, so doctors urge people to get vaccinated now
for protection through the holiday season.
And based on people’s age and health conditions, vaccinations are needed
throughout life to protect them from other illnesses like measles, chickenpox,
and bacterial pneumonia. Dr. Shah suggests everyone check with their doctor to
make sure they have all the shots they need.
TMA is the
largest state medical society in the nation, representing more than 50,000
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.
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 315,000 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 families.
– 30 –
Be Wise —
Immunize is a service mark of the Texas Medical Association.
Reporters/editors: TMA has additional resources, in English and Spanish,
for more information or to link to from your stories:
cough fact sheet;
A whooping cough
Annear (512) 370-1381; cell: (512) 656-7320; email: brent.annear[at]texmed[dot]org
Cooper (512) 370-1382; cell: (512) 650-5336; email: marcus.cooper[at]texmed[dot]org
with TMA on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
out MeAndMyDoctor.com for
interesting and timely news on health care issues and policy.