A vaccine is an oral or injected product, made up of ingredients that stimulate the body's immune response in order to prevent a specific disease. A vaccine helps your body become immune to a specific disease; one ingredient, which assists with this, is an inactivated (killed) or weakened (live) version of the disease you are vaccinating against. 

Vaccines are important to prevent getting serious illnesses. If you have a breathing or immune system condition there are several vaccines that you should consider in order to protect yourself. Your family should also consider receiving certain vaccinations to protect you as well.

There are some individuals in the community that are unable to receive the vaccinations due to certain allergies or other medical conditions; it is recommended that individuals who are able to receive vaccinations should receive them for their health as well as for the individuals around them. 

Learn about some common vaccines:


Although chickenpox (Varicella) is usually mild, vaccinating children can prevent complications of severe chickenpox and reduce costs associated with children missing school and adults missing work. The chickenpox vaccine is very effective in preventing chickenpox. Typically the vaccine is given between the 12th-15th months of age. Another vaccine that can be given for chickenpox is the MMRV.

 
DTaP is a combined vaccine that protects against diptheria, tetanus and pertussis (whooping cough), which is commonly given in 5 doses at the 2nd, 4th, 6th and 15th-18th months and 4-6 years of age. For children who cannot tolerate the pertussis vaccine, an optional Td (tetanus and diptheria) vaccine can be given to this age range.


Children who should NOT receive the DtaP vaccine include:

  • anyone who has had a severe allergic reaction to a previous dose of DTaP vaccine or to any of the vaccine ingredients, or
  • anyone who has suffered a brain or nervous system disease within the first 7 days after receiving the vaccination.

Please speak with a physician prior to receiving the vaccine if your child has had a seizure or collapsed, cried non-stop for over 3 hours or had a fever over 105º F after receiving a dose of DTaP.

Tetanus (“lockjaw”) is an often fatal disease characterized by rigidity and spasm of the muscles. It is caused by a toxin produced by the bacterium Clostridium tetani, which is found in soil and animal feces.  Tetanus occurs when a wound is contaminated with a bacterial spore that then releases toxin. Tetanus vaccination has decreased the incidence of disease dramatically.

Most people benefit from receiving the flu vaccine. Anyone who would like to decrease the chances of getting the flu or spreading the flu to others can get the flu shot each year.

 

Protecting against hepatitis A virus (HAV), the hepatitis A vaccine can be given between the 12th-23rd months of age. It is recommended that all children be vaccinated before they are over 1 year of age. Those who are at increased risk for infection or who wish to obtain immunity also may be vaccinated.

Individuals who should NOT receive the vaccine include:

  • anyone who has had a severe allergic reaction to the vaccination previously or any of its ingredients. 

Please speak with a physician before receiving the injection if the individual is pregnant or is moderately to severely ill at the time of the injection.

Hepatitis A virus (HAV) causes infection of the liver characterized by symptoms of fever, loss of appetite, nausea, abdominal discomfort, dark urine and jaundice (yellowing of the skin). Infection can also be asymptomatic, especially in young children. HAV is passed in feces and can be transmitted from person to person among close household contacts. Contaminated food and water can lead to outbreaks of HAV infection. Outbreaks have occurred in association with infected food handlers, in childcare centers, health care institutions, institutions for persons with developmental disabilities and schools.

Persons at increased risk for HAV infection include travelers to high-prevalence countries, men who have sex with men, drug users, persons with clotting factor disorders, and persons working with nonhuman primates. Persons with chronic liver disease are at risk for liver failure if infected. 

Specifically made to protect against the hepatitis B virus (HBV), the HepB vaccine is usually given beginning at birth, at the 2nd month of age and then at the 6th month of age. Vaccination is recommended for all adults at risk for HBV infection via sexual or bloodborne exposure, and any adult requesting protection from HBV infection.  Pregnant women who are at risk for HBV infection during pregnancy should be vaccinated to protect themselves and their baby.


Some individuals who should NOT receive this vaccine include:

  • anyone who has had a severe allergic reaction to the vaccination previously or any of its ingredients, which includes bakers yeast. 

Please speak with a physician before receiving the injection if the individual is moderately or severely ill at the time of the injection.

Hepatitis B virus (HBV) is a bloodborne and sexually transmitted virus that causes infection of the liver. Infection can be asymptomatic or cause nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, jaundice, rash, or joint aches. Most adults clear infection without treatment, although persistent (chronic) infection can occur, especially in persons with weakened immune systems and in young children. Most infants who contract infection from an infected mother develop chronic HBV infection. Chronic infection can lead to cirrhosis and liver cancer.   

Haemophilus Influenza type B (HIB) can be contracted through the air or by direct contact. HIB vaccination is commonly given in the 2nd, 4th, 6th and 12th month of age and is recommended for all children under 5 years of age. This vaccine can sometimes be included when other shots are given.


Some individuals who should NOT receive the vaccine include:

  • anyone who has had a severe allergic reaction to the vaccination previously or any of its ingredients, or
  • children under 6 weeks of age.

Please speak with a physician before receiving the injection if the individual is moderately or severely ill at the time of the injection.

Haemophilus influenza type B (Hib) is a leading cause of invasive bacterial infection among children in the United States. Hib causes pneumonia, bloodstream infection, epiglottitis (an infection that can block the windpipe and lead to serious, life threatening breathing problems), and infections of the ears, joints, skin, or heart.  HIB also can cause meningitis, an infection of the covering of the brain and spinal cord. It has caused complications such as permanent brain damage, epiglottis, sepsis, arthritis, pneumonia and even death.

Transmission occurs through direct contact with respiratory droplets from an infected person. Unimmunized children <4 years old, household or daycare contacts of a person with Hib disease, American Indian/Alaskan Natives, and persons with sickle cell disease, asplenia, HIV, certain immunodeficiency syndromes, and cancers are at increased risk for invasive Hib. Routine vaccination of children has reduced the incidence of invasive Hib infection by 99%.

The HPV vaccine prevents the most common types of HPV which can cause cervical cancer in women and genital warts in males and females. With approximately 40 types of the virus, it is commonly spread through sexual contact and usually has no symptoms. The HPV vaccination prevents serious health problems like cervical cancer, which can sometimes lead to death. It is suggested that all women who are between 9 and 26 years of age should receive the vaccine.


HPV4 vaccine prevents infection with genital HPV types 6, 11, 16, and 18 in order to prevent cervical cancer, anogenital cancer, and genital warts caused by these types. Three doses of HPV4 vaccine are recommended for girls and boys aged 11-12 years. The second dose is given 2 months after the first dose, and the third dose is given 6 months after the first dose. HPV2  protects against HPV types 16 and 18 and can be given to girls instead of HPV4.

Individuals who should NOT receive the vaccine include:

  • anyone who has had a severe allergic reaction to the vaccination previously or any of its ingredients, or
  • pregnant women. 

Please speak with a physician before receiving the injection if the individual is moderately or severely ill at the time of the injection.

The HPV vaccine is recommended for girls and women, but can also be given to boys and young men. Please discuss this option with your health care provider for more information.

Genital HPV is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the United States. Infection is prevalent in women and men, soon after becoming sexually active. Over 40 types of HPV infect the genital area to cause genital warts, cervical cancer and anogenital cancer.  Approximately 70% of cervical cancers worldwide are caused by types 16 and 18. HPV 6 and 11 cause 90% of genital warts.

Meningococcal vaccine is given to prevent Neisseria meningitides. Neisseria meningitides is a leading cause of bacterial meningitis. It is spread from person to person through infected respiratory secretions, occasionally leading to outbreaks of meningitis in the community, among college students living in dormitories, in primary and secondary schools, or nursing homes. Meningitis can be a deadly or disabling disease. The vaccine is usually required for all incoming college students, and is usually given between 11-12 years of age and a booster is sometimes given at 16 years of age. The vaccine may be necessary for some individuals with other medical conditions.


Routine vaccination is also recommended for certain persons who have increased risk for meningococcal disease. High-risk persons include:

  • college freshmen living in dormitories
  • microbiologists exposed to N. meningitides
  • military recruits
  • persons who travel to countries with high rates of N. meningitides
  • persons who have terminal complement component deficiencies, and
  • persons who have anatomic or functional asplenia.
Persons with certain immunodeficiencies should be vaccinated with a 2-dose primary series administered 2 months apart with a booster dose every 5 years.
 

Individuals who should NOT receive the vaccine include:

  • anyone who has had a severe allergic reaction to the vaccination previously or any of its ingredients, or
  • individuals who have had Guillain Barre Syndrome.

Please speak with a physician before receiving the injection if the individual might be pregnant or is moderately to severely ill at the time of the injection.

MMR is the vaccine given, in two doses, to prevent measles, mumps and rubella. This vaccine is usually received between the ages of 12 months to 12 years of age. Individuals who should NOT receive the vaccine include:
  • anyone with severe immunodeficiencies (HIV/AIDS, have/had cancer, radiation, chemotherapy treatment or is receiving steroids or other drugs affecting the immune system), or
  • anyone who has had a severe allergic reaction to the vaccination previously or any of its ingredients, or
  • pregnant women.

Specifically the "live" version of this vaccine should not be given to individuals who are within these high-risk health condition groups. The live version of the vaccine includes a weakened version of the disease that is being vaccinated against, instead of an inactive (killed) version of the disease.

What are measles, mumps, and rubella?

MMRV is the vaccine given, in two doses, to protect against measles, mumps, rubella and varicella (chickenpox) and is usually only needed once in a person's lifetime. It is recommended that all children between the ages of 12 months to 12 years old receive this vaccine.

MMRV is a combination of MMR and chickenpox vaccines, with equivalent protective efficacy. Compared to MMR and varicella vaccines, MMRV is associated with a higher rate of seizures among children aged 12-23 months. Two doses of MMRV can be given instead of MMR and chickenpox vaccines to children aged 12-15 months and 4-6 years. However, because of the higher rate of seizures in the younger age group, individual MMR and chicken pox vaccines are preferably given for the first dose. MMRV is preferred for the second dose, and for the first dose if given to children older than 48 months of age.

Individuals who should NOT receive the vaccine include:

  • anyone who has had a severe allergic reaction to the vaccination previously or any of its ingredients, or
  • anyone with severe immunodeficiencies (HIV/AIDS, have/had cancer, radiation, chemotherapy treatment or is receiving steroids or other drugs affecting the immune system), or
  • pregnant women.

Please speak with a physician if the individual has a personal or immediate family history of seizures, immune system problems, a blood disorder, may be pregnant or has had a recent blood transfusion.

Specifically the "live" version of the vaccine should NOT be given to these individuals who are in these high risk health condition groups. The live version of the vaccine includes a weakened version of the disease that is being vaccinated against, instead of an inactive (killed) version of the disease.

The Pneumococcal Pneumonia vaccine is given to prevent pneumonia that is caused by the Streptococcus pneumonia bacteria. Protein Conjugate Vaccination (PCV) is given to children in the 2nd, 4th, 6th and 12th months of age and before 5 years of age. PCV also is recommended for adults with certain medical conditions. The Polysaccharide Vaccine (PPSV) is given to all adults over 65 years of age and to younger adults with chronic diseases. PPSV also is given to children over the age of 24 months who are at high risk for disease. Children who are at high risk for disease, who have severe immunodeficiencies, and who SHOULD get the vaccine include anyone with:
  • HIV/AIDS,
  • sickle cell,
  • cancer, or
  • other immunocompromising conditions.

Individuals who should not receive either vaccine include:

  • anyone who has had a severe allergic reaction previously to the vaccination or any of its ingredients, or
  • pregnant women.

Please speak with a physician before receiving the injection if the individual is moderately or severely ill at the time of the injection.

Polio is an infectious disease that affects the nervous system and used to be common in the United States until the introduction of the vaccine in 1955. Within the United States, the inactivated (killed) polio vaccine (IPV) is given to protect against polio and can be given at any age, in 4 doses. IPV is commonly given at the 2nd, 4th and then between 6th-18th months of age. A booster shot is given at 4-6 years of age. Individuals who should NOT receive the vaccine include:
  • anyone who has had a severe allergic reaction previously to the vaccination or any of its ingredients, or
  • anyone who has had a severe allergic reaction to the antibiotics neomycin, streptomycin or polymyxin B.

Please speak with a physician before receiving this injection if the individual is moderately or severely ill at the time of the injection.

Most people show no symptoms; however, minor symptoms can include fever, headache, fatigue, flu-like symptoms, nausea, pain in the limbs, stiff neck and back. In few cases, a polio infection has resulted in permanent paralysis.

Poliomyelitis is a highly contagious infectious disease caused by poliovirus. Most poliovirus infections are asymptomatic. Symptoms occur in two phases: fever followed by meningitis or paralysis.  Paralytic polio can be fatal.

Polio vaccination has reduced the number of reported poliomyelitis cases worldwide by more than 80% since the 1980s and has led to the eradication of wild poliovirus from the Western Hemisphere. Until worldwide eradication is achieved, vaccination is needed to prevent epidemics of poliomyelitis caused by imported virus.

Rotavirus is the most common cause of severe gastroenteritis in infants and children worldwide. Infection can range from mild, watery diarrhea to severe diarrhea with vomiting and fever that can result in dehydration.


Rotavirus is highly contagious and can spread through close person-to-person contact or through contamination of the environment, with peak spread occurring during the winter. Before the initiation of the rotavirus vaccination program in 2006, nearly every child in the United States was infected with rotavirus by age 5 years.

There are two types of the rotavirus vaccine: RV5 and RV1. The RV5 vaccine is given at the 2nd, 4th and 6th month of age. The RV1 vaccine can be given instead at ages 2 and 4 months.

Children who should NOT receive this vaccine include:

  • anyone who has had a severe allergic reaction to the vaccination previously or any of its ingredients.

Please speak with a physician if the child has had a severe combined immunodeficiencies (HIV/AIDS, cancer, chemotherapy, radiation treatment, steroids and other drug treatments that affect the immune system), has ever had intussusceptions (type of bowel blockage) or is moderately or severely ill at the time of injection.

Tdap is a combined vaccine that protects against diptheria, tetanus, and pertussis (whooping cough). This vaccine is commonly given to adults and children over 7 years of age. A single Tdap dose is recommended for people 11-18 years old who have completed the recommended DTP/DTaP vaccination series. A single Tdap dose is recommended for ALL adults 19 and older as soon as possible. Tdap can be administered regardless of interval from previous Td, and can replace a 10-year Td booster. 

Individuals who should receive the Tdap vaccine:

  • pregnant women not previously vaccinated with Tdap should receive Tdap during the 3rd trimester or late 2nd trimester
  • those in contact with infants less than 12 months old not previously vaccinated with Tdap should receive a single Tdap dose, preferably at least 2 weeks before contact
  • health care personnel not previously vaccinated with Tdap who have patient contact should receive a single Tdap dose.

Td (tetanus and diptheria) can also be given to someone who cannot tolerate the pertussis vaccine or who has previously been vaccinated for pertussis. The Td vaccine requires a booster shot every 10 years.

Tdap is now recommended with every pregnancy regardless of prior vaccination history. 

Individuals who should NOT receive the Tdap or Td vaccine include:

  • anyone who has had a severe allergic reaction to the vaccination previously or any of its ingredients
  • anyone who has had a coma or long seizures within 7 days of receiving the vaccine.

Please speak with a physician prior to receiving the vaccine if the individual has nervous system problems/diseases (i.e. epilepsy), severe swelling or pain after a previous dose of the vaccine or who has had Guillain Barre Syndrome.

Tetanus (“lockjaw”) is an often fatal disease characterized by rigidity and spasm of the muscles. It is caused by a toxin produced by the bacterium Clostridium tetani, which is found in soil and animal feces.  Tetanus occurs when a wound is contaminated with a bacterial spore that then releases toxin. Tetanus vaccination has decreased the incidence of disease dramatically.

The shingles vaccination prevents the varicella zoster virus (VZV), which is the same virus that causes chickenpox. Most people born in the United States who are older than 40 have had chickenpox caused by varicella zoster virus (VZV). After infection, VZV remains dormant in the sensory nerves and can reactivate later to cause shingles if the immune system is weakened.   


Risk of shingles is increased after age 50 years, in people with cancer and HIV, those who have undergone bone marrow or solid organ transplant, or who are taking immunosuppressive medications, including steroids. 

Complications of shingles include pain, infection of the eye, bacterial superinfection, and severe widespread infection. Shingles is a skin rash that commonly occurs with blisters. The risk of the disease increases with age; all adults 60 years or older are encouraged to get the vaccine.

Individuals who should NOT receive the vaccine include:

  • anyone who has had a severe allergic reaction to any of the ingredients in the shingles vaccine,
  • women who are pregnant, or
  • anyone with a severe immunodeficiency (HIV/AIDS, cancer affecting the bone marrow or lymphatic system, chemotherapy, radiation treatment, steroids and other treatments that affect the immune system). 

Specifically the "live" version of this vaccination should NOT be given to these individuals who are in these high risk health condition groups.

Shingles usually occurs in people 50 years and older, individuals with medical conditions or individuals with compromised immune systems. Shingles develops after someone has had the chickenpox, but it can be years before it appears.

Please speak with your health care provider to find out if you or your child could benefit from any vaccinations. 

 

References

1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Vaccines. National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, 2013.