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What do you need to know about vaccines and how they can help you stay healthy? Find out here. Quality Insights adult immunizations expert Brenda Tincher, RN (pictured at right), answers some common questions.

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Q:  I hear about flu, pneumonia and chicken pox (varicella/zoster) vaccines in the 
news, but what about older immunizations like tetanus? Do adults still need that?

A:  Yes, the CDC recommends that all healthy adults receive either the Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis) or Td (tetanus, diphtheria) every 10 years. That standard hasn’t changed. Learn more.


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Q:  I know diabetes weakens my immune system, even though I can control my blood glucose levels. Since vaccines work with the immune system, should I avoid vaccinations?

A:  No, it is just the opposite. It’s even more important that those with diabetes stay current with all immunizations. Those with diabetes tend to have a compromised immune system, which increases their risk for death from pneumonia, bacteremia and meningitis. Also, most infectious illnesses in people with diabetes will cause critically high blood glucose levels. The CDC offers more information about this.

Q:  I have an egg allergy. Can I still get a flu shot?

A:  Luckily, egg allergies only occur in 0.2% of all adults. As with all allergies, a patient’s reaction can vary in severity. The key question is “What is your reaction when eating scrambled eggs?” If you get hives or less when exposed to eggs, you are unlikely to react to the flu shot. If you have a more severe reaction to eggs (angioedema, respiratory distress, lightheadedness or recurrent emesis; or required epinephrine or another emergency medical intervention), you can still receive the vaccine but it should be administered in a setting where the provider can recognize and treat a severe allergic reaction. Learn more about egg allergies.

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Q:  I am homebound but a home health nurse visits me every week. Can she give me the flu shot?

A: In most cases, yes, depending on the state, local and agency policies. Sometimes the patient’s family may be required to obtain the vaccine from the pharmacy and have it in the home for the visit. Other times, the nurse may be able to obtain the vaccine from the pharmacy and bring to the patient’s home. 

Q:  I rarely leave home and my only visitors are healthy. Do I really need to get flu and pneumonia vaccines? 

A:  Yes. Many people are contagious with the flu an entire day before they have any symptoms and both the flu and pneumonia can be spread simply by talking. Thus, visitors may not know they are contagious until after they have already visited someone who rarely leaves his or her home.