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Vaccines – Are your patients up to date?

Vaccines – Are your patients up to date?

Fall is flu season1, and for most Canadians, cooler weather signals the beginning of another winter cooped up indoors, or preparing to escape to warmer climes. This may be the perfect time to go over your patients’ vaccination status, while the publicity around getting the flu shot has immunization top of everyone’s mind.

As physicians know, adults are generally mindful about having their children vaccinated – unfortunately, they are much less vigilant when it comes to their own immunizations. The result has been an increasing emergence of vaccine-preventable childhood diseases in adult populations.2 Flu season provides an opportunity to open a conversation about vaccinations in general.

Adults should be current with booster shots of many vaccinations that they may not have had since childhood.3This is especially important in light of recent resurgences of vaccine-preventable illnesses such as measles, mumps, and pertussis. You may want to explain the concept of herd immunity to undecided patients, and encourage them to do their part to protect their family and community. They should know that even when vaccination does not prevent disease, it often lessens the severity and communicability of the flu and other re-emerging, easily spread preventable illnesses.1,4,5,6

Remind your patients over 60 or 65 years of age that they should have pneumococcal and herpes zoster vaccinations. Other important vaccinations – against pertussis or whooping cough, for example – are needed only once in adulthood. Protection against like tetanus and diphtheria is needed just once every ten years.3

Adult immunizations to be considered, and who should receive them: 3

  • Chicken pox: people who have not had the vaccine or the disease
  • Diphtheria: everyone, every 10 years
  • Hepatitis A: people with medical, occupational or lifestyle risks and everyone who wants protection from Hepatitis A
  • Hepatitis B: people with medical, occupational or lifestyle risks and everyone who wants protection from Hepatitis B
  • Herpes zoster: anyone over the age of 50
  • HPV: females nine to 26 years
  • Influenza: annually for people at high risk of complications from influenza and anyone who wants protection from flu
  • Measles: people who have not had the vaccine or the disease
  • Meningococcal: people with specific medical conditions and people living in communal residences, including students and military personnel
  • Mumps: people who have not had the vaccine or the disease
  • Pertussis (whooping cough) : everyone, once in adulthood
  • Pneumococcal: everyone 65 and over, and people with specific medical conditions
  • Rubella (German measles) : people who have not had the vaccine or the disease
  • Tetanus: everyone, every 10 years
  • Travel vaccines: varies by destination – consult a travel health clinic, your doctor, nurse, local public health office or www.travelhealth.gc.ca

Questions to ask your patients about their vaccinations:7

  • When did you last check your immunization record, and what was your last vaccination?
  • Does your occupation or lifestyle put you at increased risk of contagious illnesses?
  • Are you a health care provider or caregiver who has close contact with people and their germs?
  • Do you have a medical condition that may make you be more vulnerable to serious complications of illness?
  • Are you a gardener or person who works with soil, and so may be exposed to tetanus?
  • Do you plan to travel to another country, and so may be exposed to many germs you may not have immunity to?
  • Do you want the best protection against preventable diseases? That’s why you get immunized!

Healthcare professionals who wish to order brochures from Vaccines411.ca to provide patients with a list of recommended adult immunizations can order them online here.


Brought to you by Vaccines411.ca – know where to go for your vaccinations.

This information should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your doctor. There may be variations in treatment that your physician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.


  1. How can flu be prevented?
  2. Routine immunization of adults in Canada: Review of the epidemiology of vaccine-preventable diseases and current recommendations for primary prevention
  3. ADULT IMMUNIZATION: What vaccines do you need?
  4. Mumps fact sheet
  5. The Clinical Significance of Measles: A Review
  6. Effects of Pertussis Vaccination on Disease: Vaccine Efficacy in Reducing Clinical Severity
  7. The Top 10 reasons to ask about adult immunization