National Immunization Awareness Month – Are Adults Currently Immunized?

by Shari Levine, MPH, Information Director for Infectious Disease, Vermont Department of HealthNIPHIC

Shari LevineVaccines – for you, me and everybody.

What comes to mind when you think of vaccines? I think of babies, toddlers and pre-teens with their heads shaking NOOO when it’s time for a shot. Next to those kids are their parents and pediatricians enthusiastically nodding yes to prevention.

Adults also need vaccines to protect against several serious and sometimes deadly diseases. Every year thousands of adults in the U.S. become seriously ill and are hospitalized because of diseases that vaccines can help to prevent. Don’t wait for an outbreak to get yourself protected. Take the initiative now, and enjoy the benefits of prevention in the future.

Which vaccines do you need? 116482902

The specific vaccines you need as an adult are determined by your age, job, lifestyle, health conditions, where you travel, and which vaccines you’ve had in the past. Throughout your adult life, vaccines are recommended for:

  • Seasonal influenza (flu) (for all adults)
  • Pertussis (whooping cough) (for all adults who have not previously received the Tdap vaccine and for women during each pregnancy)
  • Tetanus and diphtheria (every 10 years following Tdap vaccine)
  • Shingles (for adults 60 years and older)
  • Pneumococcal disease (for adults 65 years and older and adults younger than 65 who have specific health conditions)

Other vaccinations you may need include those that protect against human papillomavirus (which can cause certain cancers), meningococcal disease, hepatitis B, hepatitis A, chickenpox, measles, mumps, and rubella. Call your health care provider to check your immunization records and find out what you may need.

Why should adults be vaccinated?

Most people live in a community, and spend time in close connection with family, friends and colleagues. This allows us to share more than just meals and companionship – we also share germs. Vaccines help to create an invisible barrier around your body that keeps germs from making you sick, or lessens the severity of illness if you do get sick.

What are the benefits?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) collects data to evaluate the effectiveness of vaccines. Based on information gathered each year from every U.S. state, we know the following:

  • Hepatitis B vaccine lowers your risk of liver cancer.
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine lowers your risk of cervical cancer.
  • Flu vaccine lowers your risk of flu-related heart attacks or other flu-related complications from existing health conditions like diabetes and chronic lung disease.
  • Tdap vaccine protects pregnant women and their newborns from whooping cough (pertussis).

vaccineAre vaccines safe?

Contradictory information is written in the media about the safety of vaccines, but scientific research is consistently telling us that vaccines are safe and effective. Every vaccine must go through years of testing before the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) licenses it for use. Both the CDC and FDA continue to track the safety of all licensed vaccines as long as they are recommended for use by Americans. Like all medications, some people will have side effects that are usually mild and go away in a few days. The most common side effects include soreness, redness, or swelling where the shot was given. Severe side effects – such as an allergic reaction – are very rare.

What if I have a chronic health condition?

People who have asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), diabetes and/or heart disease are at higher risk of developing serious complications from vaccine preventable diseases such as influenza and pneumonia.

What could happen if you don’t get vaccinated?

  • Each year, an average of 226,000 people is hospitalized due to influenza.
  • About 900,000 people get pneumococcal pneumonia every year, leading to as many as 400,000 hospitalizations and 19,000 deaths.
  • 850,000 to 2.2 million people suffer from chronic hepatitis B, with complications such as liver cancer.
  • In the U.S., HPV causes about 17,000 cancers in women and about 9,000 cancers in men each year. About 4,000 women die each year from cervical cancer.

Where can you get vaccinated?

Vaccines are given at low or no cost in health care provider offices, clinics and pharmacies around the country. Most insurance companies and Medicare will cover vaccination costs. The CDC recommends that you speak with your health care provider about your immunization records, and then get updated on any missing vaccines.

If you are traveling internationally, the CDC encourages you to be sure you’re up to date on all routine vaccinations, and to check on which vaccines are recommended for the places that you will be visiting. Check the travel website to find out which vaccines are recommended based on your destination.

August is National Immunization Awareness Month, which is sponsored by the National Public Health Information Coalition (NPHIC). The goal is to raise awareness about the importance of vaccinations and to encourage people to make sure they’re fully vaccinated.

Don’t Forget!

HHQI’s Immunization & Infection Prevention BPIP 2017 Updated version to be released in September.

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