Trucker MD
Vaccinations: Why do we need them?

John McElligott, MD
Jeffrey Heinrich, Ed. D, PA-C

Children who grew up in the '40s and '50s received few vaccinations so they suffered through the mumps, chickenpox and measles. The first measles vaccine was developed in the early 1960s, but nevertheless there was a major outbreak in the late '80s and early '90s. The polio vaccine was licensed more than 50 years ago.

Currently, rubella – commonly known as German measles – is no longer a problem in the United States. In the 1960s, however, many people saw firsthand the horrible effects of this viral illness.

So why do we need vaccinations and boosters today since those diseases seem to have disappeared?

Well, guess what? These diseases are still with us although we don't see them on a routine basis.

The list of vaccine-preventable diseases is lengthy and ranges from diphtheria down to varicella (chicken pox). The schedule for vaccination can be found on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control website: cdc.gov/vaccines.

The more serious preventable diseases that truck drivers need to pay special attention to are the following communicable diseases.

The bad boys are:

  1. Diphtheria, an upper respiratory infection.
  2. Herpes zoster (shingles), a painful skin rash.
  3. Influenza (flu), an infectious disease caused by a virus.
  4. Pneumococcus, a bacterial infection that may be found in the lungs or even brain.
  5. Tetanus (lockjaw), an infection causing muscle spasms.
  6. Hepatitis A and B, an inflammation of the liver with many different causes.

A newer one that people may not know about is

  1. human papilloma virus (HPV), which causes anogenital warts. While considered optional, the vaccine is recommended by the CDC.

Some of these represent a one-time vaccination, and others require boosters from time to time. For instance the flu shot is yearly. Each year it is designed to cover a different strain as the virus develops new characteristics from the previous year's vaccine. TDaP vaccine is three vaccines in one shot and included tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (whooping cough). Another vaccine, called Td, protects against tetanus and diphtheria, but not pertussis. A booster of Td is recommended every 10 years.

Recommended vaccines for professional truck drivers are as follows:

  1. Yearly flu shot;
  2. Pneumococcal vaccine – one dose and sometimes two. If never vaccinated by age 65, one dose; and
  3. Zoster (shingles) if you are over 60 years of age.

These three are a must and save tens of thousands of lives. The shingles shot is pricey but can prevent shingles, a very painful condition caused by zoster, which is difficult to treat. An important aspect of vaccinations is to keep a good record of all of your past immunizations and plan ahead for the future, based on the CDC guidelines.LL

A good site for more information is www.fda.gov. Look under the drug section, particularly the section titled: Estrogen and estrogen with progestin therapies for postmenopausal women.