Immunizations (cont.)

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What is the varicella vaccine, and who should receive it?

Varicella is the virus that causes chickenpox. While the disease is usually self-limited, it can cause death and permanent injury. The groups at greatest risk are infants, people over 15 years of age, and immunocompromised people. The vaccine came out in the mid-1990s and unfortunately does not offer complete protection, but even those who get the disease after vaccination have a milder form of the condition. Prior to use of the vaccine, hundreds of children died every year from chickenpox. It is recommended that all adolescents and adults without documented evidence of chickenpox or previous vaccination receive the two-dose series.

What is the pneumococcal vaccine, and who should receive it?

Streptococcus pneumoniae (also called pneumococcus) is a bacterium that can cause severe illness, including meningitis and pneumonia. The vaccine is routinely given to children; however, it is only given to adolescents and adults who are at higher risk (patients with chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes, immunocompromised individuals, smokers, and asthmatics). Elderly adults are one group that is considered at higher risk, and it is recommended that all adults receive one dose of the vaccine after 65 years of age.

What is the influenza vaccine, and who should receive it?

Influenza (flu) is an acute viral illness that can kill even healthy people. Unfortunately, the influenza virus changes a little each year, and scientists have to make educated guesses about which forms of the virus will be infecting people and circulating each year. Based on the best available evidence, they create a vaccine each year containing three of the likely influenza virus types.

There are two types of vaccine: a live attenuated vaccine (nasal spray) and an inactivated vaccine (shot). You cannot get the flu from getting the flu shot because it has inactivated virus (killed virus with heat or chemicals). The immunity from the vaccines is limited, and vaccinations must be repeated yearly. In August 2008, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices changed the recommendation on adolescents. It is now recommended that all people between 6 months and 18 years of age receive an annual vaccination. New for 2013-2014 is a vaccine for people with egg allergy: recombinant hemagglutinin influenza vaccine (RIV). Although the CDC encourages that any adult who wants to decrease the chance of getting the flu get the influenza vaccine, certain high-risk groups are recommended to always get the annual flu vaccine. Adults over 50 years of age are considered to be at high risk and should receive the yearly influenza vaccination.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/21/2014