Vaccines are safe and effective in preventing disease. A vaccine uses a small amount of dead or weak virus or bacteria, or artificially made proteins that imitate the virus, producing immunity to a specific disease. Although immunity is achievable when a person is exposed naturally to a virus, there is the risk of serious disease and potentially even death.
How Do Vaccines Work and Who Should Receive Them?
When you are vaccinated, you are injected with a weakened form of a disease which triggers your body’s immune response, so it either produces antibodies to that disease, or it starts other processes that help to enhance your immunity. Afterward, if you are exposed to the actual disease, your immune system is more prepared to fight the infection.
Some vaccines are given only once while others require booster shots occasionally to continue protection against disease.
Usually, vaccination will prevent disease or will reduce its severity. It is much safer and more cost-effective to prevent disease than to treat it.
Over the year’s vaccines have prevented epidemics of infectious diseases that were once common, including:
- Whooping cough
Vaccines have helped almost to eradicate some diseases such as smallpox and polio.
Proof of immunization is often a prerequisite for daycare or school enrolment, so it is important to ensure your child receives their vaccines.
Which Vaccines Will My Child Need?
Recommended vaccines for children up to age 6 include:
- Hepatitis A and hepatitis B
- Pertussis (whooping cough)
Our doctor can ensure your child is up to date with their vaccines right from infanthood to adulthood. However, if your child does miss a scheduled dose, they can catch up later.
The meningococcal vaccination can protect against meningitis and is recommended for children age 11 to 12, with a booster shot at age 16. Teens and young adults aged 16 to 23 can also be immunized. In specific situations, other children and adults may need the meningococcal vaccine.
Are Vaccines Safe for Children?
Modern vaccines are considered safe, but they can have side effects, just like any medication. Usually, any side effects are mild and may include low-grade fever or soreness around the injection site. These side effects usually disappear in a few days.
Very rarely, a child can have a serious allergic reaction to a vaccine which usually happens soon after it is given, and while the child is still in the doctor’s office.
Our primary care facility is well equipped to handle these allergic reactions, but if you think your child may have an allergy, please tell us beforehand.
Some parents may question why physicians vaccinate against diseases that seem so rare. The answer is that it is vaccinations that help keep these diseases rare. In communities where vaccination rates have dropped, infectious diseases quickly return.
There is a lot of misinformation and myths surrounding vaccines. Please remember our medical team is more than happy to discuss these with you and to set your mind ease.
Vaccines and Immunization for Adults
Adults need vaccines too, and your need for vaccines depends on your age, overall health, the vaccines you received during your early life, and your lifestyle.
Some of the recommended vaccines for adults include:
- Seasonal influenza
- Pertussis or whooping cough
- Tetanus and diphtheria
- Vaccine against pneumococcal disease
Other vaccines available include TwinRix for hepatitis A and B, and vaccines against chickenpox, measles, mumps, and rubella.
Influenza is potentially serious, and every flu season is different. Millions of people get the flu each year, and some will be hospitalized. The seasonal flu vaccine causes antibodies to develop approximately two weeks after vaccination and protects against infection with the viruses in the vaccine.
Our physician recommends flu shots for children as young as six months of age, and for adults age 65 years or older and pregnant women, and people with chronic health conditions.
Diphtheria, Tetanus, and Pertussis (DTaP) vaccination is recommended for children aged below seven years. Older children and adults receive a slightly different type of vaccination called the Tetanus, Diphtheria, and Pertussis (Tdap) vaccination.
If you have never received Tdap, talk to our primary care doctor about immunization. The Tdap vaccination is recommended every ten years.
Shingles is a painful condition that can cause a rash over the face or torso. Typically, the rash consists of blisters that scab over in a week to 10 days, clearing up entirely within 2 to 4 weeks. The pain caused by the rash can be an intense burning sensation. Some people find the pain lasts for months or even years after and this is one of the most common complications of shingles.
The risk of getting shingles increases with age. Two vaccines are recommended for preventing shingles, and the most commonly used is called Shingrix. The vaccine can be given to healthy adults age 50 or older.
Pneumococcal disease or pneumonia is a serious condition, especially for older adults. There are two types of vaccines that can help to prevent this disease. It is a recommended vaccination for children aged younger than two and for adults age 65 or older.
Sometimes a vaccination is also recommended for other adults with certain medical conditions or for adults who smoke.
Hepatitis A and B are serious liver diseases. Hepatitis A can be contracted by eating food or drinking beverages contaminated by human fecal waste, or by eating raw or poorly cooked seafood and shellfish. It can also be contracted if you eat salads rinsed in contaminated water, or by drinking contaminated water or beverages with contaminated ice.
You can even get it by bathing, swimming, or sharing in contaminated water. Hepatitis B is transmitted when you come into contact with bodily fluids, including blood, saliva, semen, or vaginal fluid of someone infected.
Hepatitis A and B are found frequently in much of the developing world, including popular vacation destinations like the Caribbean. Even if you stay at a five-star resort, you can still contract hepatitis A and B.
The best way to avoid these diseases is with vaccination and especially if you are traveling to an area where hepatitis A and B are endemic.
TwinRix can prevent hepatitis A and B and is a vaccine available for infants, children, adolescents, and adults. It is administered intramuscularly as an injection, and the standard dosing schedule is three vaccine doses over six months.
After you receive the first dose, you will be given the second dose one month after. The final dose is given six months after the first dose.
It is also possible to receive TwinRix as a four-dose rapid schedule for adults age 19 or older with the final dose given a year after the first.