Vaccines

2017 update to the immunization schedule for kids

Claire McCarthy, MD
Claire McCarthy, MD, Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publications

The CDC and the AAP update their vaccine recommendations every year, and here are the latest changes. These updates show just how important it is to stay on top of research and help increase the effectiveness of each vaccine. The schedule for routine immunizations and catching up kids who get behind can be found on the CDC and AAP websites if you’d like more information.

Flu news: Now most people with egg allergies can get a flu shot

Wynne Armand, MD
Wynne Armand, MD, Contributing Editor

If you have been avoiding the flu shot because you’re allergic to eggs, studies suggest that you can safely get vaccinated. Allergic reactions to the flu shot are quite rare. If you’ve never had a reaction to a flu shot, protect yourself by getting one this year. Ideally do it in a doctor’s office or hospital so that you can get prompt treatment in the unlikely event you have an immediate, severe reaction.

The 2 reasons your child needs to get a flu shot this season

Claire McCarthy, MD
Claire McCarthy, MD, Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publications

It’s especially important for children to get flu shots, both because the flu can hit the young with particular severity, and because of the potential to pass the illness to others.

Why we need to make it harder for parents to refuse vaccines

Claire McCarthy, MD
Claire McCarthy, MD, Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publications

Choosing to vaccinate a child — or not — doesn’t just affect that child, but also undermines the concept of herd immunity that protects others in the community from the spread of certain diseases.

The inconvenient truth of vaccine refusal

Claire McCarthy, MD
Claire McCarthy, MD, Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publications

The development of vaccines for many once-fatal illnesses has saved the lives of hundreds of thousands of children in the United States. While some parents may have concerns about the side effects of a vaccine, the decision not to vaccinate a child extends the risk of illness to the larger community.

Don’t shrug off shingles

Matthew Solan
Matthew Solan, Executive Editor, Harvard Men's Health Watch

Shingles, an itchy and painful rash that occurs when the chickenpox virus reactivates in your body, shouldn’t be written off as just a nuisance. If it’s not treated promptly with an antiviral drug, it can cause a host of serious long-term complications. Fortunately, there’s a vaccine that can slash your risk of shingles by half, and another, even more effective one in the pipeline.

Protection from the TdaP vaccine doesn’t last very long

Claire McCarthy, MD
Claire McCarthy, MD, Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publications

Unfortunately, according to a recently published study, the TdaP vaccine is less effective than previously thought. It could even be a factor in the recent California outbreaks. Other versions of the vaccine offer more protection, but also have more side effects. Protecting kids from pertussis might require a substantial public health effort to get just right.

Do statins interfere with the flu vaccine?

John Ross, MD, FIDSA
John Ross, MD, FIDSA, Contributing Editor

The statin drugs are very effective at reducing LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and may also reduce inflammation throughout the body. Both of these properties can reduce the risk of cardiovascular problems. At the same time, research — some of it conflicting — suggests that statins may also affect the body’s immune system. In particular, they may dampen the response to vaccines.

Kids and flu shots: Two common myths

Claire McCarthy, MD
Claire McCarthy, MD, Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publications

“Last time I got the flu shot, it actually made me sick!” “My kids are perfectly healthy. They’ll be fine.” You’ve probably heard a version of these two before. These flu shot myths are so persistent that they prevent countless numbers of people from getting vaccinated each year. We’ve debunked these claims here to help you make your flu shot decision based on facts — not myths.

Get the flu vaccine, reduce your risk of death

John Ross, MD, FIDSA
John Ross, MD, FIDSA, Contributing Editor

Last year’s flu vaccine gave a lackluster performance — it prevented the flu in less than a quarter of the people who got immunized. Flu vaccines are created to protect against the three or four viruses most likely to cause the flu in a given season. Some years, the predictions are better than others. Scientists are now working on a universal flu vaccine that may make the guesswork unnecessary. And there are improved vaccines available for people with egg allergies, which would otherwise prohibit them from getting standard flu shots. The flu vaccine may be imperfect, but it’s still worth getting. It does lower your chances of getting the flu, and it reduces the risk for heart attack, stroke, and death as well.