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The most important vaccines for grandparents

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Updated on September 14, 2020

Vaccines for grandparents

Staying up to date on vaccine or immunization schedules is important for everyone, but it can be especially important if you’re a grandparent. If you spend lots of time with your grandchildren, you don’t want to pass on any dangerous diseases to these vulnerable members of your family.

Here are the top vaccines that you should consider getting before spending time with young ones, especially newborns.

Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis)

The Tdap vaccine protects you against three diseases: tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (or whooping cough).

You may have been vaccinated against pertussis as a child, but immunity fades over time. And your previous vaccinations for tetanus and diphtheria require a booster shot.

Why it’s important:

Tetanus and diphtheria are rare in the United States today, but vaccines are still needed to make sure they remain rare. Pertussis (whooping cough), on the other hand, is a highly contagious respiratory illness that continues to spread.

While people of any age can get whooping cough, infants are especially vulnerable. Babies typically receive their first dose of the whooping cough vaccine at 2 months, but aren’t fully vaccinated until around 6 months.

Half of all infants under 1 year of age that get whooping cough need to be hospitalized, so prevention is important.

Most people who get whooping cough catch it from someone at home, such as a parent, sibling, or grandparent. So, making sure you don’t get the disease is a key part of making sure your grandchildren don’t get it.

When to get it:

A single shot of Tdap is recommended in place of your next Td (tetanus, diphtheria) booster, which is given every 10 years.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that the Tdap shot is especially important for anyone who anticipates having close contact with an infant younger than 12 months of age.

How long before you see the kids:

The CDC recommends getting the shot at least two weeks before having contact with an infant.

Shingles vaccine

The shingles vaccine helps protect you from getting shingles, a painful rash caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox.

Why it’s important:

Anyone who’s had chickenpox can get shingles, but the risk of shingles increases as you get older.

People with shingles can spread chickenpox. Chickenpox can be serious, especially for infants.

When to get it:

A two-dose shingles vaccine is currently recommended for adults over 50, whether or not they remember ever having chickenpox.

How long before you see the kids:

If you have shingles, you’re only contagious when you have a blister rash that hasn’t yet formed a crust. So unless you have a rash, you probably don’t need to wait to see your grand kids after you get your vaccine.

MMR (measles, mumps, rubella)

This vaccine protects you against three diseases: measles, mumps, and rubella. While you may have received the MMR vaccine in the past, protection from it might fade over time.

Why it’s important:

Measles, mumps, and rubella are three highly contagious illnesses spread by coughing and sneezing.

Mumps and rubella are uncommon today in the United States, but this vaccine helps keep it that way. Measles outbreaks still occur in the United States and more commonly in other parts of the world. The CDC provides current case statistics.

Measles is a serious disease that can lead to pneumonia, brain damage, deafness, and even death, especially in infants and small children. Babies are typically vaccinated against measles at 12 months.

Infants are protected from measles when those around them are vaccinated against the disease.

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When to get it:

The CDC recommends at least one dose of the MMR vaccine for people in the United States born after 1957 who aren’t immune to measles. A simple blood test can check your immunity level.

People born before 1957 are generally considered immune to measles (due to previous infection) and don’t need an MMR booster.

How long before you see the kids:

To make sure you don’t put your grandchildren at risk, check with your doctor about how long you should wait to see young children after you get your vaccine.

Flu vaccine

While you may know that you likely should get a flu shot each year, it’s especially important when you’ll be around young children.

Why it’s important:

Getting an annual flu vaccine protects you from serious risk. In recent years, 70 to 90 percent of flu-related deaths have occurred in people over age 65.

In addition to protecting you, the vaccine helps protect your grandkids from the flu, which can be dangerous for them too. Children under age 5 are at higher risk of serious flu-related complications.

Also, because their immune systems aren’t fully developed, children have a high risk of getting the flu. Babies under 6 months are too young to receive a flu shot, so it’s especially important to protect them from flu germs.

When to get it:

The CDC recommends that all adults get a flu shot every flu season. In the United States, flu season usually lasts from October to May. Each year’s new batch of flu vaccines typically becomes available in late summer.

If you’d like to get a flu shot outside of flu season, ask your pharmacist or doctor about getting the most recent vaccine.

How long before you see the kids:

To make sure you don’t put your grandchildren at risk, check with your doctor about how long you should wait to see the young ones after you get your vaccine.

If you notice any flu symptoms, you should avoid young children until you’re sure you aren’t sick.

Pneumonia vaccine

This vaccine is called the pneumococcal vaccine, but is sometimes just called the pneumonia shot. It protects you from diseases such as pneumonia.

Why it’s important:

Pneumonia is a serious lung infection that can be caused by bacteria. Adults over age 65 and children younger than 5 have a greater risk of getting pneumonia and its complications.

When to get it:

There are two types of pneumococcal vaccines: pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13) and pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV23). One dose of each is recommended for adults over age 65.

If you’re younger than 65 but have certain chronic medical conditions such as heart disease or asthma, or you have a weakened immune system, you should also get a pneumococcal vaccine. The PPSV23 is also recommended for adults ages 19 to 64 who smoke.

How long before you see the kids:

To make sure you don’t put your grandchildren at risk, check with your doctor about how long you should wait to visit children after you get your vaccine.

Talk with your doctor

If you’re not sure which vaccines you should get or have questions about them, talk to your doctor. They can explain the CDC’s recommendations and help you decide which vaccines would be best for your health, as well as the health of your grandchildren.