Staying up to date on vaccine or immunization schedules is important for everyone, but it’s especially important if you’re a grandparent. Here are the top vaccines that you should consider getting, even before the new baby arrives.

Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis)

Why it’s important:

The Tdap vaccine can protect you from tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis. Tetanus and diphtheria are rare in the United States today, but pertussis, or whooping cough, is a highly contagious respiratory sickness that continues to spread.

Whooping cough starts out like the common cold but progresses to violent coughing fits after a couple weeks. People with whooping cough are most contagious in the first week or two, before the cough develops.

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

Half of all infants that get whooping cough need to be hospitalized. Four out of five babies who get whooping cough catch it from someone at home, such as a parent, sibling, or grandparent.

When to get it:

You may have been vaccinated against whooping cough as a child, but immunity fades over time.

A single shot of Tdap is recommended in place of your next Td (tetanus, diphtheria) booster, which is given every 10 years. However, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends getting a Tdap shot before the 10-year interval if you anticipate having close contact with an infant younger than 12 months, or if you don’t remember ever receiving a Tdap shot.

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


Why it’s important:

Shingles is a painful rash caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. Anyone who has had chickenpox can get shingles, but shingles is most common in adults over age 60. Around 99 percent of U.S. adults over age 40 have had chickenpox, even if they don’t remember getting it.

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

When to get it:

A one-time shingles vaccine is currently recommended for adults over 60, whether or not they remember ever having chickenpox.

MMR (measles, mumps, rubella)

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 measles outbreaks still occur, such as the outbreak in early 2015.

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.

When to get it:

Protection from the MMR vaccine may fade over time. The CDC recommends at least one dose of the MMR vaccine for people in the United States born after 1957 who are not immune to measles. A simple blood test can check your immunity level.

People born before 1957 are generally considered immune to measles and don’t need an MMR booster.


Why it’s important:

Ninety percent of deaths from the flu occur in people over the age of 65. Getting an annual flu vaccine protects you and your grandkids from getting sick.

Because their immune systems aren’t fully developed, children have a high risk for contracting the flu. Babies under the age of 6 months are too young to receive a flu shot.

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.


Why it’s important:

Pneumonia is a serious lung infection caused by bacteria. Adults over the age of 65 and children younger than 5 have a greater risk for getting pneumonia.

When to get it:

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

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