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You can't buy good health but you can buy good health information. Check out these newly released Special Health Reports from Harvard Medical School:

Vaccinations: Separating myth from reality, from the August 2013 Harvard Women's Health Watch

Vaccinations aren't just for children. Older adults need them, too, to ward off preventable infectious diseases, especially influenza and pneumonia. Yet many adults aren't following the recommended vaccination schedule. In 2011, only 62% of Americans aged 65 years and older were vaccinated against pneumonia, just over 50% got a needed tetanus vaccine, and a mere 15% were vaccinated against shingles. The August 2013 Harvard Women's Health Watch asked Dr. Elisa Choi, an internal medicine and infectious disease specialist at Harvard Vanguard Medical Center and faculty member at Harvard Medical School, to address five myths and misconceptions that may be keeping adults from getting the vaccinations they need.

Myth: I'll catch the flu from the influenza vaccine. Fact: The injectable flu vaccine is not a live vaccine, so it cannot, in any way, transmit the flu virus.

Myth: The flu vaccine isn't effective in older adults. Fact: Each year, the flu vaccine formulation is based on predictions of which strains are most likely to circulate in the coming flu season. Other strains may enter the mix. But even if you catch a flu virus that wasn't in the vaccination, the vaccine isn't useless. It could make the infection less severe.

Myth: Vaccines contain mercury, which could make me sick. Fact: According to the CDC, there is no evidence that the low doses of thimerosal, a mercury-containing preservative used in some vaccines, is harmful. If you're still concerned, you can ask your doctor for a thimerosal-free flu vaccine.

Myth: Vaccines overload the immune system. Fact: Considering that the immune system faces constant bombardment from microbes in the environment, the small amount of bacteria and viruses in one vaccination can barely be considered an assault. In fact, vaccines strengthen the immune system by arming it against infectious agents.

Myth: Older adults don't need to be vaccinated. Fact: The opposite is actually true. Among many older individuals, the immune system loses some of its ability to protect against infectious diseases even as they face an increasing number of chronic health conditions that can leave them more susceptible to infection.

Read the full-length article: "Vaccinations: Separating Myth From Reality"

Also in this issue of the Harvard Women's Health Watch

  • The right shoes: The key to better health
  • Ask the doctor: Can red yeast rice bring down cholesterol?
  • Ask the doctor: What can I do about painful sex?
  • A heart condition may foreshadow dementia, even without a stroke
  • Don't give up on losing weight and staying fit
  • Vaccinations: Myth vs. reality
  • Varicose veins: Searching for less-invasive treatments
  • Research we're watching: Real-time digital mammograms more accurate than computed radiography
  • Research we're watching: Two osteoporosis drugs better than one
  • Research we're watching: Pelvic organ prolapse surgery less effective over time
  • Research we're watching: New guidelines recommend CT screening for long-term smokers

More Harvard Health News »


About Harvard Health Publications

Harvard Health Publications publishes four monthly newsletters--Harvard Health Letter, Harvard Women's Health Watch, Harvard Men's Health Watch, and Harvard Heart Letter--as well as more than 50 special health reports and books drawing on the expertise of the 8,000 faculty physicians at Harvard Medical School and its world-famous affiliated hospitals.