Thursday, April 3, 2014

Vaccinations: The Who, What, When, Where, and Why

When was the last time you got vaccinated? With the flu vaccine getting the spotlight during the recent flu season, other vaccines often get neglected. As a healthcare provider, I always encounter confusion amongst patients with this subject. Here is the who, what, when, where, and why on what vaccinations are recommended by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) for those 55 and over.

1. Flu vaccine (influenza)
Who: All individuals (except those with an egg allergy)

What: The Flu vaccine provides protection against the influenza virus. There can be several strands of flu in a single shot. This can be identified as trivalent (3 strands) vs. quadrivalent (4 strands). Be sure to ask which type your provider offers.

When: Yearly between September – March

Where: Check with your primary care provider or local pharmacy.

Why: The flu vaccine minimizes your chances of getting the flu or can decrease the severity of flu symptoms. Symptoms of the flu include typical common cold symptoms, as well as fatigue, body aches, and fevers. Complications of the flu can lead to pneumonia or respiratory failure. It is important to get your flu shot yearly due to the changes that occur in the viral strains. Moreover, remember you can’t get the flu from the flu shot, because the vaccination is inactive.

2. Tdap (Tetanus, Diphtheria, and Pertussis)
Who: All individuals

What: The Tdap vaccine provides protection against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis in a single vaccine.

When: A booster shot is recommended every 10 years

Where: Check with your primary care provider and local pharmacy. 

Why: The Tdap vaccine minimizes your chances of:

  • Tetanus- characterized by prolonged contraction of skeletal muscle tissues. This can be caused by injury to the skin with a rusty or dirty object.
  •  Diphtheria- a respiratory illness that can result in respiratory failure.
  • Pertussis aka “ whooping cough”- a highly contagious respiratory disease that can result in uncontrollable coughing and difficulty breathing.

3. Shingles (Herpes Zoster)
Who: Those 60 +

What: The Shingles vaccine minimizes your chances of reactivating the chicken pox

When: A one time dose

Where: Check with your primary care provider and local pharmacy

Why: Shingles is a dormant form of the chickenpox virus in the nerve roots. Upon times of stress or decreased immunity this virus can become reactivated and cause a

4. Pneumonia (Pneumococcal) 
Who: Those 65 + and all individuals who are at high risk (co-morbidities including-cardiovascular disease, chronic lung disease, liver disease, diabetes, renal failure, immunocompromised, alcoholism, and smoking.) 

What: The Pneumonia vaccine minimizes your chances of developing the most common types of pneumonia.

When: 1-2 doses before the age of 65 (at least 5 years apart), 1 dose after the age of 65.

Where: Check with your primary care provider and local pharmacy

Why: Pneumonia can lead to a blood infection and even respiratory failure. Although the treatment of pneumonia can be achieved with antibiotics, with an increase in antibiotic resistance and co- morbidities, prevention by means of vaccination is more becoming important.

Ideally, when considering vaccinations it is important to outweigh the benefits and risks. Many diseases that were once prominent have now become obsolete with the introduction of vaccinations. The diseases mentioned above can also enter this realm though prevention by vaccination. In order to be proactive it is important to talk to you health care provider to discuss your risks and what vaccines they would recommend for you.  


CDC. (2014). Immunization schedules. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from

CDC. (2014). Vaccines and Immunizations. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from

Heflin, M.T. (2014). Geriatric health maintenance. Up to Date. Retrieved from

By: Bethany Mayor- Gomez, MSN(c), RN 

Bethany is a registered nurse with a background in travel vaccinations, cardiac, orthopedic, and medical-surgical nursing. She will soon be graduating with her master’s degree as a Family Nurse Practitioner. Her favorite thing about nursing is the continuous strive for the welfare of others through health promotion, protection, and disease prevention.

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