Vaccinations

Vaccinations Articles

Chickenpox (Varicella)

Chickenpox is an infection that causes an itchy, blistering rash and is very contagious, meaning it is spread easily from one person to another. It is caused by varicella-zoster virus (VZV), which enters the body through the mouth and nose after contact with an infected person. A person with chickenpox can spread the disease to someone else from one day before the rash appears until all chickenpox blisters have crusted over. Once someone has had a chickenpox infection, he or she almost always develops a lifelong immunity, meaning that person usually does not get chickenpox a second time. The exception is a child who is infected at a very young age. Young children usually have milder cases and may not build up enough protection against the disease. Therefore, these children may develop the disease again later in life. Because chickenpox is so contagious, 90 percent of a patient's family also will develop the illness if they live in the same house and are not already immune. In the past, chickenpox cases often occurred in groups (epidemics), usually during the late winter and early spring. However, the number of cases of chickenpox has dropped dramatically because of the chickenpox (varicella) vaccine, which was licensed in 1995 and is recommended for all children. Chickenpox is an uncomfortable infection that, in most cases, goes away by itself. However, chickenpox also has been associated with serious complications, including death. About one of every 100 children infected with chickenpox will develop a severe lung infection (pneumonia), an infection of the brain (encephalitis), or a problem with the liver. Dangerous skin infections also can occur. Before the introduction of the vaccine, about 100,000 people were hospitalized and 100 people in the United States died each year of chickenpox, most of them previously healthy children. Adolescents and adults who develop chickenpox are also at high risk of developing serious complications. After a person has chickenpox, the virus typically lives silently in the nervous system of the body for the rest of a person's life. It may reactivate (come to life again) at any time when the body's immune defenses are weakened by stress or illness (such as cancer or HIV infection) or by medications that weaken the immune system. The most common reason for the virus to reactivate is getting older. Reactivation of the virus causes a condition called shingles, a painful blistering skin rash that typically occurs on the face, chest or back, in the same area where one or two of the body's sensory nerves travel.   (Locked) More »

Is the new pneumonia vaccine better?

Two pneumonia vaccinations are available. The newest one, Prevnar 13, stimulates higher antibody levels. Research is under way to find out if the new vaccine works better. Everyone over 65 or at risk of pneumonia complications should be vaccinated. (Locked) More »

What you need to know about: vaccines

All adults are advised to get flu vaccines each year. However, immunization doesn’t last a lifetime, so you should check to see if all of your vaccinations are current. You need a tetanus booster every 10 years. All adults 65 or older should get the pneumonia shot once (and a second time after age 65 if the first shot was given when they were younger than 65). The Food and Drug Administration recently approved the shingles vaccine for people ages 50 and older; however, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices continues to recommend that vaccination begin at age 60. More »

Keeping up with your vaccinations

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revises its immunization guidelines every year. No new vaccines have been added but there are some changes for 2011, in particular ones that apply to people at middle age or older. Here's a quick summary which includes flu shots, Tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (Tdap) and meningococcal vaccine. (Locked) More »

The shingles vaccine

For people who have had shingles, the question of whether or not to get the vaccine to prevent a recurrence is not easily answered. Some pretty good data suggests that the risk of recurrence is quite high and, particularly if you've had a bad case, getting the vaccination would seem to be a prudent precaution. But it's also possible to make a case for the evidence not being all that solid. More »

The cervical cancer vaccine

A vaccine aims to prevent cervical cancer by fighting the strains of human papillomavirus that cause it. The CDC recommends the vaccine be given before puberty, because it is more effective if received before exposure to HPV. More »