Your Fall Immunization Checklist

By Eileen B. Wyner, NP
Bulfinch Medical Group

Eileen W

It’s hard to believe that the last few days of the lazy, hazy days of summer are upon us. I don’t need the calendar to clue me in on this. I just visit my backyard deck and notice the sun has moved so I don’t need the table umbrella anymore to deflect the sun. I do need a hard hat, though, because the acorns are dropping like rocks from the sky!  I don’t have any children I have to get ready for back to school, but I have always been a lover of the back to school mentality:  organization, new beginnings, and fresh notepads!  Now, revealing my love of notepads instead of iPads reveals my generation, so I will admit that Fall also gets me to thinking about my Winter health maintenance.  I want to briefly review some immunizations that should be regularly updated for people living with Diabetes that you can add to your list of things to discuss with your health care provider at your next visit. 

Prevention of illness is important for everyone, but people living with Diabetes may have more complications from some common illnesses.  Everyone with Diabetes should get the flu vaccination in the Fall.  Flu can be a very serious disease that could put you at greater risk for developing pneumonia, and there are reported fatalities due to complications.  The flu vaccine will not prevent other common cold weather illnesses, but it will greatly decrease the likelihood of developing flu.  The flu vaccine is developed each year based on the type of flu that was seen the previous year and projections of the type of flu anticipated in the present season – that’s why it needs to be given annually.

Prevention of pneumonia is also very important as this is another serious disease with the potential for significant complications and death. This vaccine should be given to all people with Diabetes at diagnosis. You will require a booster if it has been more than 5 years since you received the first immunization and if you were immunized before you were 65 years old. There is no scientific data available at this point that supports more frequent re-vaccination.

Tetanus shots might not be high on your list when it comes to preparing for Winter illnesses because rusty nails is what usually pops to mind.  When we received our tetanus immunizations as a child, it was meant to prevent tetanus (lockjaw), diphtheria, and pertussis (whooping cough).  Diptheria and pertussis were thought to be well controlled worldwide, but a tetanus booster would be given every 10 years primarily to protect us if we had a broken bone or a serious cut.  However in recent years, pertussis has increased across the country and a change in vaccine has been recommended.  The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), the group that develops vaccination recommendations, updated their guidelines for Tdap in June 2012.  The new guidelines state that all adults receive a single dose of Tdap, regardless of the interval since the last dose of tetanus. Subsequent tetanus booster doses should continue to be given at 10 year intervals.

I hope that this review has given you a few topics to think about and to review with your health care provider at your next office visit.  Each person’s health status is individual to them, so take some time to make a list on one of your new notepads:  #1 My Health. You deserve to be #1.