Vital Vaccines

Sarah Baker, MD, internal medicine physician with CHI Memorial Chattanooga Internal Medicine Group.

Sarah Baker, MD, internal medicine physician with CHI Memorial Chattanooga Internal Medicine Group.


When you hear the word vaccine, it’s easy to think of children first. Vaccines are a way to build up your body’s natural immunity – and to protect against serious illnesses and complications from diseases. But vaccines aren’t just for children. Adults also gain vital protection for their health when they follow the recommendations for vaccinations. 


What it is: Tetanus, also known as lockjaw, can cause painful muscle spasms and can lead to death. It’s caused by bacteria that is commonly found in soil, saliva, dust and manure. It generally enters through a break in the skin – such as a cut or wound – by a contaminated object.

Why you need it: There are few different types of tetanus vaccines for adults that provide protection against several diseases. Td is a combo vaccine that protects against diphtheria and tetanus. The Tdap shot protects against diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough. 

Recommended vaccination schedule: You should get Tetanus shot every 10 years. Adults who have never received Tdap should get it in place of a Td dose, one time. Pregnant women should get Tdap during the 3rd trimester of every pregnancy to protect her baby from whooping cough in the first few months of life. 


What it is: Shingles is a viral infection that causes a painful rash.

Why you need it: One out of three people in the United States will develop shingles in their lifetime. In addition to the itchy and uncomfortable rash, shingles can also lead to postherpetic neuralgia, which is a chronic pain syndrome on the skin.

Shingrix is a new shingles vaccine that became available in January 2018, which is a replacement for the older vaccine named Zostavax. It’s more than 90% effective in preventing shingles and postherpetatic neuralgia. As far as we know, its protection stays above 85% for at least the first four years after you get vaccinated. We are waiting for further studies to see how long the vaccine can last before a booster is needed.

Recommended vaccination schedule: Shingrix is recommend for healthy adults 50 years and older. For full protection, you need two doses separated by 2 to 6 months.  


What it is: Pneumonia is a lung infection that occurs in one or both lungs, causing the air sacs to fill up with pus or fluid. Because the condition makes it hard for you to breathe, it often leads to hospitalization.

Why you need it: A variety of organisms, including bacteria, viruses and fungi, can cause pneumonia. The pneumonia vaccine helps to prevent the most common bacterial pneumonia, streptococcus Pneumoniae. Each year in the United States, pneumococcal disease causes thousands of infections that are not just pneumonia but meningitis, bloodstream infection, and ear infection. The pneumonia vaccines can help prevent severe diseases which often require treatment in the hospital and reduce your risk of premature death. 

Recommended vaccination schedule: There are two pneumonia vaccines: Prevnar 13 and Pneumovax 23. Anyone age 65 years or older should get both vaccines. The typical vaccination schedule is to get Prevnar13 first, followed by Pneumovax23 a year later. These vaccines are also recommended for certain adults younger than age 65 who have chronic illness – like heart disease, kidney disease, liver disease, lung disease, diabetes or alcoholism. Those with other conditions that weaken the immune system (like HIV/AIDS, cancer or who have damaged/absent spleens) and individuals with a cochlear implant, cerebrospinal fluid leaks or who smoke, should also be vaccinated early. It’s important to talk with your doctor about your personal risk factors.

Insurance Coverage

Shingrix for shingles is covered by commercial insurance. If you are 65 years or older, it’s is covered under Medicare Part D. This means patients must get the vaccine at their pharmacy because it’s under the prescription portion of their healthcare plan. Pneumonia and Tetanus vaccines are routinely covered in full, but it’s important for you to check the specific details of your plan.   

When it comes to taking care of your health, vaccines are a simple and relatively painless way to protect yourself against certain infectious that could lead to hospitalization and death. Take the next step and talk with your physician about which vaccines are right for you. 

To schedule a consultation with Dr. Baker at CHI Memorial Chattanooga Internal Medicine Group, call (423) 495-2690

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