Pop quiz. You were vaccinated for smallpox in the 1960's. Now, following the attacks of September 11 in New York, you're concerned about bioterrorism. You've read the U.S. government has stockpiled huge quantities of the smallpox vaccine to protect against a smallpox emergency. How concerned should you be about your personal safety?
Apparently not too much.
A research team at Oregon Health and Science University recently completed a study showing that most vaccine's protective effects last much longer than previously expected. In fact, as with the smallpox vaccination, many vaccines protect for a lifetime.
"So what does this mean? Based on this data and other studies, we may want to consider adjusting some of our recommended vaccination schedules. Doing so may reduce the number of required shots that are administered each year in this country while at the same time help extend limited health care resources," said Dr. Mark Slifka.
Other vaccines that protect for a lifetime include rubella (German measles), mumps, and the Epstein-Barr virus. Diphtheria vaccination offers protection for 19 years and chickenpox vaccination will keep you safe for a full 50 years. Quite impressive.
Tetanus shots are especially interesting.
"Another example is the tetanus vaccine," said Slifka. "Doctors are told that vaccination is effective for a period of 10 years - but after that, people should be revaccinated. Based on our studies and the work of others, once a person has received their primary series of vaccinations they are likely to be protected for at least three decades. Indeed, other countries such as Sweden have changed their vaccination policies and doctors are advised to offer tetanus revaccination only once every 30 years."
The change has not resulted in higher rates of tetanus cases in Sweden, and a similar change in the U.S. could potentially save hundreds of millions of dollars.
Pop quiz number 2. You walk past a bakery giving away free samples of their prize-winning triple-layer, dark chocolate cream pie. How worried should you be about...To read more about the study, see this from Reuters. To read more about the currently recommended vaccinations in the United States, see this from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention .