If you’re the grandparent of children under the age of 5, you may want to chat with your healthcare professional about the shingles, Tdap, MMR, flu, and pneumonia vaccines before getting too close.

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You’re about to become a grandparent and wonder if you should take any steps toward making this anticipated meeting the safest possible.

Staying up to date on vaccine schedules is essential for everyone, but it can be especially important if you’re in contact with newborns. Babies do not have developed immune systems, which increases their chance of developing infectious diseases.

The shingles vaccine helps protect you from getting shingles, a painful rash caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. Medicare Part A and B may not cover the vaccine, but Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D may cover some or all of the costs.

You can learn more about the early symptoms of shingles here.

Why it’s important

Anyone who’s had chickenpox can get shingles, but the chance of getting shingles increases as you get older. Shingles infections can be more serious in older adults.

Children may get chickenpox from someone who has shingles. Chickenpox can be serious, especially for infants.

When to get it

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

You can learn more about the shingles vaccine procedure here.

How long before you see the grandchild

Shingles can only be spread when a blister rash that hasn’t yet formed a crust is present. Unless you have an active rash, you probably don’t need to wait to see your grandkids after you get your vaccine. If you’re unsure if your shingles rash is active (or developing), consulting a healthcare professional before seeing your grandchildren is highly advised.

Here are some of the most important vaccines you should consider getting before spending time with your youngest grandchildren.

The Tdap vaccine protects you against:

As a child, you may have received the vaccine against whooping cough, but immunity fades over time. Previous vaccinations for tetanus and diphtheria require a booster shot.

You can learn more about the Tdap vaccine here.

Why it’s important

Tetanus and diphtheria are rare in the United States, but vaccines are still needed to ensure they remain rare.

Pertussis, on the other hand, is a highly contagious respiratory illness that continues to spread. Newborns are particularly vulnerable to the disease.

Babies typically receive their first dose of the whooping cough vaccine at 2 months old but aren’t fully vaccinated until around 6 months. Half of all infants under the age of 1 year who get whooping cough need to be hospitalized due to complications.

When to get it

A single shot of Tdap is recommended in place of your next Td (tetanus, diphtheria) booster, 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 grandchild

The CDC recommends getting the shot at least 2 weeks before having contact with an infant.

The MMR vaccine protects you against three diseases:

While you may have received the MMR vaccine in the past, immunity fades over time. When in doubt, asking a healthcare professional is encouraged.

Why it’s important

Measles, mumps, and rubella are three highly contagious conditions that may be transmitted 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 now and then and more commonly in other parts of the world. The CDC provides current case statistics.

Measles is a serious disease that can lead to:

Infants and small children are particularly vulnerable to measles. Babies are typically vaccinated against the disease at 12 months old.

Newborns and infants are protected from measles when those around them are vaccinated against the disease.

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 blood test can check your immunity level.

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

How long before you see the grandchild

You may want to check with your healthcare professional to ensure you know how long you should wait to see young children after you get your vaccine.

While you may get a flu shot yearly, it’s essential to do so when you’re around newborns and young children.

Why it’s important

Getting an annual flu vaccine protects you from complications of the virus. In recent years, 70–90% of flu-related deaths have occurred in people over age 65.

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

Also, babies have a high chance of getting the flu because their immune systems aren’t fully developed. Those under 6 months are too young to receive a flu shot.

You can learn more about the symptoms of the flu in babies here.

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, you may want to ask your pharmacist or doctor about getting the most recent vaccine.

How long before you see the grandchild

You may want to check with your doctor about how long you should wait to see the youngest ones after you get your vaccine. If you notice any cold or flu symptoms, avoiding young children may be a good idea until you feel better.

You can learn more about staying healthy from cold, flu, and COVID-19 here.

The pneumonia vaccine is called the pneumococcal vaccine but is sometimes called the pneumonia shot.

Why it’s important

Pneumonia is a serious lung infection. Adults over age 65 and children younger than 5 years have a greater chance of getting pneumonia and developing complications.

When to get it

Two types of pneumococcal vaccines exist:

  • pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13)
  • pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV23)

One dose of each is recommended for adults over age 65.

The pneumococcal vaccine may be a good idea if you’re younger than 65 years but have certain chronic medical conditions such as heart disease, asthma, or a weakened immune system. Your healthcare professional may be able to determine if and when to get the vaccine in this case.

The PPSV23 is also recommended for adults ages 19–64 who use tobacco.

You can learn more about the symptoms and causes of pneumonia here.

How long before you see the grandchild

You may also want to check with your healthcare professional how long you should wait after the vaccine before you can have close contact with your youngest grandchildren.

Protecting yourself often comes hand in hand with protecting the youngest members of your family. If you’re a grandparent of children under the age of 5, you may need to get the Tdap, MMR, flu, shingles, and pneumonia vaccines.

If you’re unsure if or when you need to receive these vaccines, reviewing your health records with your healthcare professional may help.