Tag: boosters

Why Do Some Vaccines Need Boosters?

Vaccines work.

They aren’t perfect though, which is why some vaccines need booster doses to help them provide long lasting protection.

Why Do Some Vaccines Need Boosters?

To be clear, just because you get more than one dose of a vaccine, that doesn’t make it a booster dose.

For example, infants get multiple doses of the DTaP, polio, Hib, hepatitis B, Prevnar, and rotavirus vaccines, but those are part of the primary series for those vaccines. They aren’t boosters.

“A “classical” prime-boost immunization schedule is, thus, to allow 4 to 6 months to elapse between priming and booster doses, hence the generic “0-1-6 month” (prime-prime-boost) schedule. Secondary antigen exposure thus results in the production of higher-affinity antibodies than primary responses.”

Plotkin’s Vaccines (Seventh Edition)

Getting the booster shot in a vaccine series is important to get full protection.
Getting the booster dose in a vaccine series is important to get full protection.

Classic booster doses are the:

But why do we need these booster doses?

While one or more doses of the primary series of the vaccine leads to the production of plasma cells and protective antibodies, the booster dose then causes a secondary immune response and the production of more long-lived plasma cells. That’s how we get higher levels of protective antibodies that will last longer.

Which Vaccines Don’t Need Boosters?

In general, live vaccines don’t need booster doses.

So why do we get a second dose of MMR?

This isn’t a classic booster dose. It protects the small percentage of people who don’t respond to the first dose.

Some folks may need a booster dose of the MMR vaccine in certain circumstances though, specifically if they are caught up in a mumps outbreak.

What to Know About Vaccine Booster Doses

Some vaccines need booster doses to help you get full protection. Don’t skip them.

More on Vaccine Booster Doses

Do Your Kids Need a Mumps Booster Shot?

Traditionally, kids get vaccines to protect them against mumps when they are 12 to 15 months old (1st dose of MMR) and again before starting kindergarten (2nd dose of MMR).

Do Your Kids Need a Mumps Booster Shot?

Routine use of the mumps vaccine, which was first licensed in 1967, has helped to greatly reduce the incidence of mumps cases from pre-vaccine era levels.

Outbreaks of mumps the last few years have led to calls for a third dose of MMR in some situations though.

mumps-booster
During an outbreak, universities make sure students are up-to-date with their MMR vaccines.

Does that mean that your kids will need a third dose of the MMR vaccine?

Probably not.

“Persons previously vaccinated with 2 doses of a mumps virus–containing vaccine who are identified by public health authorities as being part of a group or population at increased risk for acquiring mumps because of an outbreak should receive a third dose of a mumps virus–containing vaccine to improve protection against mumps disease and related complications.”

Recommendation of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices for Use of a Third Dose of Mumps Virus–Containing Vaccine in Persons at Increased Risk for Mumps During an Outbreak

Is there a mumps outbreak in your area?

While that is the main reason to get a third dose of MMR, simply being near an outbreak still doesn’t mean an extra vaccine is necessary.

“In the setting of an identified mumps outbreak, public health authorities should define target groups at increased risk for mumps during the outbreak, determine whether vaccination of at-risk persons is indicated, and provide recommendations for vaccination to health care providers.”

Recommendation of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices for Use of a Third Dose of Mumps Virus–Containing Vaccine in Persons at Increased Risk for Mumps During an Outbreak

Your local or state health department will decide which folks need a third dose of MMR in an outbreak situation.

“Persons at increased risk for acquiring mumps are those who are more likely to have prolonged or intense exposure to droplets or saliva from a person infected with mumps, such as through close contact or sharing of drinks or utensils.”

Recommendation of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices for Use of a Third Dose of Mumps Virus–Containing Vaccine in Persons at Increased Risk for Mumps During an Outbreak

Why not just give everyone a third dose of MMR?

The issue with the mumps vaccine is waning immunity, so it isn’t known how long an extra dose would last, and that’s why at this time, the only recommendation is to give an extra dose during outbreaks.

If you are still unsure about needing a third dose of MMR, ask your pediatrician, school health clinic, or local health department, especially if you have heard about local mumps cases.

What to Know About the Mumps Booster Shot

A third dose of MMR is recommended for some people at high risk to get mumps in an outbreak situation.

More on the Mumps Booster Shot

Your Baby’s First Vaccines

Your baby’s first vaccines are very important.

While they don’t provide instant protection, they do start your baby on the path to eventually getting protected from 16 different vaccine-preventable diseases.

Your Baby’s First Vaccines

Rotavirus vaccines are associated with a very small risk of intussusception, but that is not a good reason to miss the benefits of this vaccine.
The rotavirus vaccine will be among your baby’s first vaccines. Photo by Vincent Iannelli, MD

After the birth dose of the hepatitis B vaccine, your baby’s first vaccines when you visit your pediatrician for their two month check up will include:

  • DTaP – diptheria – tetanus – pertussis
  • IPV – polio
  • Hepatitis B
  • Hib – haemophilus influenzae type b
  • Prevnar 13 – pneumococcal disease
  • Rotavirus

Sound like too many? Those vaccines work to protect your baby against eight vaccine-preventable diseases!

And it doesn’t mean that your baby has to get six shots.

The rotavirus vaccine is oral – your baby drinks it.

And many of the other vaccines can be given as a combination vaccine, either Pediarix (combines DTaP-IPV-HepB) or Pentacel (combines DTaP-IPV-Hib), to reduce the number of individual shots your baby needs to get even more.

While that still means multiple injections, there are things you can do to minimize the pain during and after the vaccines, from breastfeeding and holding your baby to simply trying to get them distracted.

Your Baby’s Next Vaccines

After their first vaccines at two months, your baby will complete their primary series of vaccines with repeated dosages of the same vaccines at four and six months.

Why do we need to repeat the same vaccines?

Because that’s often what it takes to help us build up an immune response to a vaccine, especially at this age.

These first vaccines prime the immune system, which when followed by a later booster vaccine, provide good protection against each disease.

start your baby on the path to eventually getting protected from 16 different vaccine-preventable diseases.
Ari Brown, MD explains why you shouldn’t delay or skip your child’s vaccines.

And the requirement of multiple dosages of a vaccine is a small price to pay to be able to skip the symptoms and risk of more serious consequences that come from getting a natural infection and natural immunity.

Did your baby have a reaction to their first set of vaccines?

While some fever, pain, and fussiness is not unexpected, be sure to tell your health care provider if your baby had a reaction that you think was more severe, like a high fever or non-stop crying for several hours.

Can you expect a reaction to your baby’s second set of shots if they had a reaction to the first? Probably not. Side effects, even those that are serious, rarely happen again, even when the same vaccines are given.

Your Baby’s Vaccines

While you certainly shouldn’t skip or delay any of these vaccines, you should know that:

  • the routine age for starting these vaccines is at two months, but
  • if necessary, they can be given as early as when a baby is six weeks old.
  • the routine interval between dosages of the primary series of these vaccines is two months, but
  • if necessary (usually as part of a catch-up schedule), these vaccines can be usually be given as soon as four weeks apart, although the third dose in the series of DTaP, IPV, and Hepatitis B vaccines shouldn’t be given any sooner than at age six months.
  • infants who will be traveling out of the United States should get an early MMR vaccine – as early as six months of age

And if your baby is at least six months old during flu season, then they will also need two doses of the flu shot given one month apart. The minimum age to get a flu shot is six months, and kids get two doses during their first year of getting vaccinated against the flu to help the vaccine work better.

Learn more about if you are on the fence. Your baby needs to be vaccinated and protected.

What to Know About Your Baby’s First Vaccines

Your baby’s first vaccines are safe and necessary to start them on a path to eventually getting protected from 16 different vaccine-preventable diseases.

More on Your Baby’s First Vaccines

Updated February 7, 2018

Did Your Hepatitis B Antibody Test Come Back Negative?

Hepatitis B can be prevented.Three doses of the hepatitis B vaccines have been shown to provide long lasting protection in most people.

Do you need to get your titers checked to make sure you are immune?

Usually not. Simply being fully vaccinated with the  vaccine is  good enough evidence that you are immune in most, but not all circumstances.

A few circumstances in which you might need to be tested can include:

  • a baby who was born to a HBsAg (hepatitis B surface antigen) mother
  • being a healthcare worker who has a job and who is in a work setting that puts them at higher risk for exposure to blood or body fluids from patients who are positive for HBsAg
  • being immunocompromised, so you are not sure if the vaccine is going to work, or patients requiring chronic dialysis
  • someone who has sex or shares needles with a person who has a chronic hepatitis B infection

The screening test for vaccine immunity that is done checks the persons level of anti-HBs (antibody to the hepatitis B surface antigen). It should be done one to two months after your last dose of hepatitis B vaccine, but not later.

“Persons determined to have anti-HBs concentrations of ≥10 mIU/mL after receipt of the primary vaccine series are considered immune, and the result should be documented. Immunocompetent persons have long-term protection and do not need further periodic testing to assess anti-HBs levels.”

CDC on Immunization of Health-Care Personnel

The alternative to screening healthcare workers after they complete their vaccination series is to do postexposure management. In this method, in the case of a needlestick or other blood or body fluid exposure, both the source patient and the health care worker are tested and postexposure prophylaxis is given as necessary.

Don’t pregnant women get tested for hepatitis B? They do, but not to see if they are immune from immunization. They routinely have a HBsAg test to see if they have a chronic hepatitis B infection, which can be passed on to their baby.

Other screening tests that can be done include anti-HBc (antibody to hepatitis B core antigen) and IgM anti-HBc (IgM subclass to hepatitis B core antigen). These two tests can help you figure out if a person has an acute infection or is immune from a past infection.

Non-Immune Hepatitis B Titer Levels

Why check the anti-HBs level?

Because of the devastating effects of chronic hepatitis B infections, it is good to have all of the information you can get to help prevent a possible infection if you are exposed to blood or body fluids while working.

Having a positive anti-HBs level, typically defined as a level of ≥10 IU/mL, means that you are immune and protected.

But what if your level is negative? What if your level is <10 IU/mL after you have already gotten three doses of hepatitis B vaccine?

Then you get another dose of hepatitis B vaccine and the level is checked again in one to two months. If it is still <10 IU/mL, then you get two more doses of hepatitis B vaccine and the level is checked again in one to two months.

If you are still negative after six or more doses of hepatitis B vaccine, then you are considered a non-responder. You would then require postexposure testing and possible prophylaxis if you are exposed to a patient’s blood or body fluids.

What If You Lost Your Hepatitis B Immunity?

There is a reason that they don’t recommend testing more than one to two months after your last dose of hepatitis B vaccine.

“Studies indicate that immunologic memory remains intact for at least 20 years and confers protection against clinical illness and chronic HBV infection, even though anti-HBs levels that once measured adequate might become low or decline below detectable levels. If one is challenged with HBV, people whose immune systems are competent will mount an anamnestic response and develop protective anti-HBs.”

Immunization Action Coalition on Hepatitis B Questions

It is known that anti-HBs levels can decrease over time.

Fortunately, this does not lead to waning immunity in typical circumstances. Because of an anamnestic response, the hepatitis B vaccine provides long lasting protection, even if your antibody levels appear to have dropped.

Avoiding Hepatitis B

Since health care workers should practice universal precautions whether or not they are immune to hepatitis B, being a non-responder isn’t going to change how you do things too much.

Plus, there are other diseases that are not yet vaccine preventable that you could get if you are stuck with a needle, so you are hopefully still very careful, no matter how immune you are to hepatitis B.

Still, it is very nice to have one less thing to worry about in this situation.

“Unvaccinated or incompletely vaccinated persons who experience a workplace exposure from persons known to be HBsAg-positive should receive 1 dose of hepatitis B immune globulin HBIG (i.e., passive vaccination) as soon as possible after exposure (preferably within 24 hours).”

CDC on Immunization of Health-Care Personnel

If you are a non-responder and and are exposed to hepatitis B, then one thing that is different is that you will likely require two doses of HBIG (hepatitis B immune globulin) for protection. Others can get one dose of HBIG and can repeat the hepatitis B vaccine. Those who are fully vaccinated and known to be immune likely won’t have to do anything to protect themselves from hepatitis B, although each incident should be investigated to make sure.

But it is not just healthcare workers who are at risk for accidental needlesticks. What if a healthcare worker sticks themselves and then you or your child? Or what if your child gets stuck with a discarded needle at the park?

What to Know About Hepatitis B Titers

Get vaccinated and follow the latest guidelines if you are exposed to hepatitis B, especially if you are a non-responder to the vaccine with low titer levels.

More on Hepatitis B Titers and Immunity

Did Your Rubella Titer Come Back Negative?

Two doses of the MMR vaccines give the great majority of people long lasting immunity to measles, mumps, and rubella. Well, measles and rubella anyway. Unfortunately, the mumps part of the vaccine has some issues with waning immunity.

Do you need to get your titers checked to make sure you are immune?

Usually not. Simply being fully vaccinated with the MMR vaccine is  good enough evidence that you are immune in most, but not all circumstances

Getting or being pregnant is one of those circumstances in which it is important to know for sure. It is really one of the only circumstances. Health care works are no longer routinely tested after they are vaccinated, as proof of vaccination is good evidence of immunity for the MMR vaccine.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that all pregnant women be screened for rubella.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that all pregnant women be screened for rubella.

That screening test is a rubella serum IgG levels or as it is more commonly known as, a titer level.

Non-Immune Rubella Titers

Why check it?

Because of the devastating effects of congenital rubella syndrome, all pregnant women are screened early in their pregnancy.

Babies with congenital rubella syndrome may have cataracts and many other birth defects.
Babies with congenital rubella syndrome may have cataracts and many other birth defects. Photo courtesy PHIL

Having a positive rubella titer, typically defined as a IgG level of ≥10 IU/mL, means that you are immune and protected.

But what if your rubella titer is negative? What if your level is <10 IU/mL?

We know that levels of vaccine-induced rubella antibodies can decrease over time, but unlike mumps and pertussis, this does not seem lead to waning immunity with rubella.

Still, the current recommendations from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) are that:

  1. Vaccinated women of childbearing age who have received one or two doses of rubella-containing vaccine and have a rubella serum IgG levels that is not clearly positive should be administered one additional dose of MMR vaccine, with a maximum of three doses.
  2. After this additional dose, they do not need to be retested for serologic evidence of rubella immunity.
  3. Since MMR is a live vaccine, the additional dose should not be given during pregnancy or within a month of when you plan to get pregnant. You can get it while you are breastfeeding though.

How much should you be concerned about a negative rubella titer?

Although congenital rubella syndrome is not uncommon in other countries that don’t routinely vaccinate for rubella, there has not been a case of congenital rubella syndrome in the United States since – 2017.

That’s right, we have actually had two cases of congenital rubella syndrome in the US this year! In past years, these cases have all been linked to pregnant women becoming infected outside the US though, as there are thought to be very few rubella infections locally.

And two cases is a far cry from when rubella caused 2,100 neonatal deaths and 20,000 infants to be born with congenital rubella syndrome during an epidemic in the mid-1960s, before the first rubella vaccine was available.

That’s because vaccines work.

Wait, then why do some of these folks have a negative titer when they are tested?

While the easy answer is to say that they aren’t immune, it is more complicated than that. For example, some of the negative results could be false negatives (a negative test result that really should be positive). Others could possibly have low antibody levels, but they are still immune. Still, since one dose of a rubella containing vaccine is only about 97% effective, some of them could be non-responders.

Will a second or third booster dose of vaccine help increase your antibody levels? Yes, but in this situation, they will likely just rise temporarily. The second or third dose of MMR isn’t technically a booster dose, but rather a dose for those who didn’t respond to the previous doses, particularly for the measles component.

Avoiding Rubella

With a negative rubella titer, especially if you have not been previously vaccinated with one or more rubella-containing vaccines, you should likely try to avoid anyone who might have rubella.

There aren’t a lot of guidelines on how to avoid rubella though.

If you want to avoid rubella, avoid folks who aren't vaccinated against rubella.
If you want to avoid rubella, avoid folks who aren’t vaccinated against rubella. Photo courtesy of PHIL

That probably surprises you, especially with all of the information out there on how to avoid the flu, measles, mumps, and other infectious diseases, but it shouldn’t.

Symptoms of a rubella infection can include swollen lymph glands, low grade fever, a mild case of pink eye, and a red rash that can be hard to see, unless the person is overheated, like after a bath. Most importantly, people with rubella can be contagious for another few weeks, even as all of the symptoms have gone away. Also, like most viral infections, they were contagious for a few days even before they developed their first symptoms. And, believe it or not, some people with rubella might have no symptoms at all and still be contagious.

So how do you avoid someone who doesn’t even know that they are sick and are still contagious?

You basically want to try and away from anyone who might become sick and contagious…

While that sounds impossible, avoiding kids and adults who are intentionally unvaccinated, especially those who are intentionally unvaccinated and have recently traveled out of the country, can be a good start.

And like someone with a medical exemptions to getting vaccinated, if you have been vaccinated and lost your immunity to rubella, feel free to hide in the herd. This is one of the reasons everyone gets vaccinated!

What to Know About Rubella Titers

Get vaccinated and follow the latest guidelines if you are pregnant and your rubella titer is negative.

More on Rubella Titers and Immunity

Vaccine Schedule for Teens

In addition to most of the childhood immunizations, a few vaccines are given to pre-teens and teens to protect them against tetanus, pertussis, HPV, and meningococcal disease, including:

  • Tdap – booster to protect against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis
  • HPV – the human papillomavirus vaccine (HPV2, HPV4, or HPV9)
  • MCV4 – vaccine that protects against four strains of meningococcal bacteria
  • MenB – new vaccine that protects against additional B strain of meningococcal bacteria

For more information: