Vaccinations Articles


Tetanus is an illness caused by infection with the bacterium Clostridium tetani. These bacteria live in soil. When they get into the human body, they make a toxin that damages the nervous system. Symptoms of tetanus start to appear between 5 and 15 days after the bacteria get into the body. First there are mild spasms and then rigidity of the muscles of the jaw (lockjaw), neck, and face, along with difficulty swallowing or speaking. Soon after, the chest, back, and abdominal muscles become rigid. This can interfere with breathing and threaten life, especially in children and older adults. Powerful and painful seizures then occur. People with tetanus must be hospitalized. Treatment begins with an injection to neutralize the tetanus toxin. Intravenous penicillin is used to fight the infection. Removal of infected tissue may also be necessary. Muscle relaxants (to reduce spasms) and sedation may be needed. Some people with tetanus must be put on a ventilator to help them breathe. More »


Influenza, commonly known as the flu, is a respiratory infection caused by an influenza virus. The flu virus enters your body when you breathe in air containing infected droplets, usually generated by someone else's coughing or sneezing. Outbreaks occur nearly every winter, and vary in severity depending on that year's strain of the influenza virus. If you are like most people, you have had the flu at some point in your life. You may have felt awful for a week or so, but you got over it. Some people, though, develop serious complications such as pneumonia. Some even die from the flu. Those most at risk for complications include infants, people over age 60, and those with heart disease, lung disease, or chronic diseases that weaken the immune system, such as diabetes. The influenza virus can cause severe pneumonia. It can also weaken the lungs, allowing harmful bacteria to take over and cause bacterial pneumonia. This can happen even to healthy young adults. More »

Shingles vaccination pros and cons

Experts recommend that everyone 60 and older get the vaccine for shingles, a painful rash caused by reactivation of the chickenpox virus. The vaccine is safe, but can be costly if not covered by insurance. The chief benefit of the vaccine is that it helps prevent an uncommon but serious complication of shingles: persistent nerve pain after the rash clears up, known as post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN). PHN can be very painful as well as hard to treat. Vaccination is not as effective in older people because their immune systems tend to weaken over time. Over all, in those 60 and older the vaccine cuts the risk of shingles by 50%. (Locked) More »

Lower your heart attack and stroke risk with a flu shot

A flu shot may lower the risk of having a heart attack, a stroke, heart failure, or another major cardiac event—including death—by about a third over the following year. A flu shot may be even more beneficial for people who have recently suffered a heart attack. Experts recommend a flu shot for everyone 6 months of age or older. It’s best to get the vaccine in the fall, but January is not too late because flu season usually peaks in February. For those over 65, a high-dose vaccine is available, but it hasn’t been proven to fend off the flu better than the regular vaccine.  (Locked) More »

Fall vaccination roundup

Autumn is a good time to review vaccination histories. A flu shot is recommended annually. Some people think it’s okay to skip this vaccine, but the CDC reports that up to 49,000 people in the United States die from the flu in a bad year. A pneumonia vaccination is recommended just once for adults ages 65 and older. Tetanus boosters are needed once every 10 years. And a vaccination against shingles is recommended for people 60 and older. (Locked) More »

Flu shot: Good insurance, not a guarantee

Not everyone who gets a flu shot will obtain full immunity from infection, but it’s still worth getting. It’s especially important for people with lung disease, cardiovascular disease, and other chronic conditions. Severe flu infection can be dangerous. About 90% of deaths from flu occur in people 65 and older. In addition to vaccination, frequent hand washing and avoiding public places can reduce the chances of getting the flu. If the flu does strike, taking antiviral medication may reduce the severity and duration of the illness. (Locked) More »

Vaccinations: Myth vs. reality

Vaccines are just as important for preventing disease now that we’re older as they were when we were children. Yet many older adults fail to get the vaccines they need to protect themselves against diseases such as the flu, pneumonia, and shingles. More »