Importance of Adult Vaccinations
Adult Vaccinations can save lives
Globally millions of adults fall seriously sick and get hospitalized for easily preventable diseases. Adult vaccinations are also necessary because more than 25 percent of mortality is due to infectious diseases. As per the World Health Organization (WHO), vaccination coverage worldwide is still 85 percent with no significant increase from the past few years. If vaccination coverage in adults is increased, an additional 1.5 million deaths can be avoided.
Protection from vaccines against some disease can wear off
Some diseases like influenza (flu), pneumococcal disease are more common in adults. In some cases, like diphtheria, the childhood vaccination protection can wear off over time. That’s why, vaccines for diseases like tetanus/diphtheria a booster is recommended every 10 years.
Adults can be at risk for new and different disease
In addition, adults can be at risk for new and different diseases owing to their age, lifestyle, job, health condition or travel plans. For instance, adults who work in health care settings are at risk for hepatitis B, adults with some chronic health conditions are at risk for pneumococcal disease and adults who are travelling internationally can be at risk of diseases we don’t see here in India such as yellow fever.
Vaccination can help protect others too
When you get vaccinated, you will help in protecting others by making it less likely that you will get a disease and spread it. This may also help protect those who cannot be vaccinated like people with some medical conditions and very young babies.
Recommended Vaccines for Adults
1. Flu Vaccine
Flu vaccine is administered as a shot (the most common type) or sometimes, as a nasal spray once a year. The vaccine is generally given in the flu season. All adults should get this vaccine, unless they have a medical reason not to.
2. Pneumococcal Vaccine
Pneumococcal vaccine is administered as a shot. There are two of these vaccines. For a healthy adult over 65, both vaccines are needed. The timing as well as the sequence of these vaccines depend on what vaccine you may have had earlier.
For people with long-lasting kidney failure or other conditions, doctors recommend another dose 5 years after the first.
This vaccine is generally recommended to all adults who are 65 and older. However, if you are younger than 64, you need this vaccine if you:
- Have Asthma
- Live in a long-term care facility or a nursing home
- Take medicines or treatment that makes you more prone for an infection. These include radiation therapy, steroids and some cancer drugs.
- Have long-term conditions like lung disease, diabetes, heart disease, a cochlear implant, cirrhosis, sickle cell disease, leaks of cerebrospinal fluid or alcoholism
- Have a disease that reduces your body’s defenses against infection, such as lymphoma or leukemia, kidney failure, AIDs, HIV and multiple myeloma
3. DTP (Diphtheria, Tetanus, Pertussis) Vaccine
A single shot of DTP, also called the Tdap vaccine, can protects against all three diseases. A shot of Td vaccine guards against tetanus and diphtheria. A one-time DTP vaccine, followed by a Td booster every 10 years is all you need to protect yourself from these three diseases. The vaccination has to be taken by:
- Adults up to the age 64 who have not had the DTP vaccine in the past 10 years or at all
- Pregnant women, preferably between 27 and 36 weeks of each pregnancy
- People aged 65 and above who have not had the vaccine and will be in close contact with a child younger than 12 months
- Anyone who has not had a tetanus shot in the past 10 years and has already taken a DTP shot should get a Td vaccine.
Myths and facts About Adult Vaccination
|Vaccines are for kids and adults do not need any vaccine||The CDC recommends an immunization schedule for adults depending on their age as well as health conditions. Adults should discuss with their doctor about the potential risks of numerous diseases that can be prevented by taking vaccines|
|Vaccine is for very old people||Infections like pneumonia, typhoid, hepatitis B can happen at any age and can be lethal. By getting vaccinated, you can avoid unnecessary suffering and protect yourself including your family from these deadly diseases|
|Healthy adults do not need vaccines||An individual who is healthy and active may feel that he/she do not have a risk of vaccine-preventable diseases as they take good care of themselves. But, our immune system gets weakened continuously as we age. And, at the age of 65 or above, adults are at eight times greater risk for being hospitalized due to infections such as pneumococcal pneumonia than those who are younger than 50|
|Vaccinations are not effective in adults||As per the CDC, vaccination is the most effective and the safest way to protect yourself from diseases. Vaccines go through years of vigorous research and testing before the FDA approves them to be used by doctors. Hence, there is no risk involved in getting vaccines from a doctor|
|If I was vaccinated in childhood, I do not need any vaccination in adulthood||You may have had vaccinations done as a child. But, still some vaccines need a booster dose to offer you full protection against diseases. Besides, protection may not be life-long for diseases such as pertussis (whooping cough) or tetanus. In addition, there are some of the newer vaccines that are available right now. For example, it is recommended to get the flu shot once every year to reduce the risk and complications associated with it. The Td (Tetanus and Diphtheria) should also be taken once in every 10 years.|
|If I am healthy and if I am travelling, I do not need any vaccine||The chances of you getting infected increases while travelling to new places, no matter how healthy you are. You should consult with your doctor a few weeks before your travel and discuss what vaccines are needed before travelling. Health risks are greater in rural areas and developing countries because of differences in water sources, sanitary conditions and immunization coverage. The risk of getting infected depends on where you are travelling, the length of stay as well as your health and vaccine history. Most travellers may need measles, hepatitis A and typhoid vaccine. If you are travelling to South America or Africa, the yellow fever vaccine is recommended|
|Adults need only flu vaccine||Adults require many more vaccines than just flu shot. The DPT (Diphtheria, Pertussis and Tetanus) vaccine is required for women during pregnancy and once for all adults who have not taken it earlier. Tetanus vaccine is needed once every 10 years. The chicken pox vaccine is recommended for all adults who have not had chicken pox or received the vaccination in childhood|
The Bottom line Vaccines are recommended throughout your life (from childhood to older age) to prevent diseases and their sequel. Vaccines for adults can significantly reduce disease burden and mortality. The key is to talk to your doctor about adult vaccination and keep yourself fully immunized from various deadly diseases.