Dr. Vy Chu, reponds:
This is a great, straightforward question that we're very proud to answer.
As a primary care clinic, we deal with vaccinations daily. Here's a rundown of the vaccinations that we routinely discuss with our patients:
- Hepatitis A: Hep A is a virus that attack the liver causing several weeks of abdominal pain, malaise, and jaundice and is spread via fecal-oral route. Outbreaks typically occur due to poor hygiene on the part of food handlers, but it's thought that given our sexual patterns and practices (think: oral sex, rimming) the GLBT population is at particular risk and is thus recommended for us in particular by the CDC. Immunity is essentially lifetime, and conferred by getting two shots separated by six months.
- Hepatitis B: Hep B is a virus that attacks the liver as well, but the danger with HepB is that it can cause chronic lifetime infection and while there is treatment, there is no cure. In the GLBT population it is primarily sexually transmitted. Immunity is essentially lifetime, and conferred by a three-shot series (first visit, one month later, and six months later).
- Tetanus: Yup, you still have to get tetanus boosters every ten years. Tetanus is a disease of the nervous system that is caused by a bacteria that is found in the soil, and can be life-threatening. You're at risk for it every time you have an injury that breaks the skin.
- Influenza: We recommend that you get the flu shot every season, this season in particular. This season so far, the most commonly encountered flu strains are luckily related to one of the strains contained in the vaccine.
I hope that answers the question! Really, Hep A vaccination is the only "routine" vaccination that is recommended in particular for the GLBT population.
In contrary to memories from childhood, all these vaccines are given with a pretty small needle (smaller than that used for blood draws). You CANNOT, I repeat, CANNOT develop any of the above diseases from these vaccines. Tetanus may make your shoulder feel mildly sore the day after, but that's about the worst of it.
Please make an appointment to see one of us if you feel you need to renew or review your vaccinations!
--Vy Chu, MD
Rob Killian responds:
There is also a vaccine for shingles.This is designed for our older patients who do not have HIV. There is still some controversy about this vaccine but if you want to talk about it at your visit feel free to do so. It is live viral vaccine...so those who have HIV cannot get this vaccine at this point....although we have under close observation done so in some HIV positive men who had normalized their immune system.