‘Other’ Vaccines to Remember

Pneumonia, shingles, and tetanus. Are you up to date?

A Veteran getting his vaccineWhen you hear the word "vaccine," odds are you instantly think of COVID-19. But it's also important to remember that other vaccines keep us safe from illnesses that existed before the coronavirus. Everyone needs to be hands-on to keep themselves healthy.

The list below will help you decide which vaccines you should get, when, and why.

  • Pneumonia vaccine: Pneumonia causes 1 million hospitalizations and about 50,000 deaths a year. It’s an infection of the lungs and the most common complication of the flu. There are two different vaccines. You should talk to your doctor about whether you need one vaccine or both. Send your provider a Secure Message or call them to see if it’s time to get this vaccine.

  • Shingles vaccine: The risk of getting shingles rises with age. One in three people will get it, usually after age 50. By 85, half of the adults will have had at least one outbreak. Everyone 50 and older should get the shingles vaccine, Shingrix®. To prevent shingles, you should get the vaccine. It’s given in two doses spaced two to six months apart. Adults aged 50 and older should get this vaccine even if they remember having chickenpox as a child. Those aged 50 who previously received the Zostavax® (shingles) vaccine should also receive the Shingrix®(shingles) vaccine.

  • Tetanus vaccine or booster: If you can’t remember getting this shot, you probably need it. You may need a Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (whooping cough) at least once, and then you’ll need the Td booster (or Tdap) every 10 years. However, if you got your booster 8 years ago and step on a rusty nail, you should contact your doctor about what to do immediately. Your protection against tetanus and diphtheria can fade.

In the first year after getting vaccinated, Tdap prevents illness in about 7 out of 10 people who get the vaccine. Make sure you’re up to date on this vaccine or booster. And if you get a wound, be sure you’ve been vaccinated within the last 5 years. Reminder, the Tdap vaccine should be received during each pregnancy.

When you get vaccinated, check for updates to your personal records in My HealtheVet. Record any new vaccines you receive outside of VA under ‘Immunization’ in the Track Health section online.

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