written by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Vaccines provide protection for everyone!
August is National Immunization Awareness Month. As a health professional, it’s an opportune time to remind adults about getting their vaccines. Each year thousands of adults in the US get sick from diseases that could be prevented by vaccines. Unfortunately, adult vaccination rates are low.
What vaccines do adults need?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends several vaccines for adults based on age, health condition, occupation, lifestyle, and other risk factors.
- Seasonal influenza (flu) – for all adults
- Tdap (Tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis)
- For health care professionals and anyone having close contact with a baby younger than 12 months
- Pregnant women should get a dose of Tdap during every pregnancy
- A Td booster should be given to adults every 10 years after Tdap vaccination.
- Pneumococcal disease – for adults 65 years and older, and adults younger than 65 with certain conditions that weaken their immune system
- Shingles – for adults 50 years and older
When traveling internationally, CDC recommends adults receive the recommended vaccines based on their destination.
The flu vaccine remains the best protection from flu
Most people who get the flu will have mild illness, will not need medical care or antiviral drugs, and will recover in less than two weeks. Some people, however, are more likely to get flu complications that can result in hospitalization and sometimes death. Pneumonia, bronchitis, sinus infections and ear infections are examples of flu-related complications. Vaccination can keep people from getting sick with flu, and it may also make illness milder for people who do get the flu. A 2017 study showed that flu vaccination reduced deaths, intensive care unit (ICU) admissions, ICU length of stay, and overall duration of hospitalization among hospitalized flu patients. 2017-2018 was a high severity flu season with record-breaking levels of influenza-like illness and hospitalization rates. CDC estimates that the 2017-2018 flu vaccine reduced the risk of getting sick and having to see a doctor from flu by about one-third.
Promote the new shingles vaccine for adults!
Shingles is a painful rash illness which sometimes leads to long-term nerve pain. CDC recommends adults age 50 or older get vaccinated with the new shingles vaccine, Shingrix.
There are several reasons to get vaccinated with Shingrix:
- Previous infection with chickenpox puts adults at risk for shingles.
- More than 99 percent of Americans born before 1980 have had chickenpox, even if they don’t remember it.
- About 1 in 10 people who get shingles develop nerve pain that lasts for months or years after the rash goes away. This is called postherpetic neuralgia and is the most common complication of shingles.
- Shingles may lead to other serious complications involving the eye, including blindness. Very rarely it can also lead to pneumonia, hearing problems, brain inflammation (encephalitis) or death.
- The risk of shingles and its complications increases with age.
Adults 50 years and older need two doses of Shingrix. They should receive the second dose two to six months after getting the first dose. They may have already received a different shingles vaccine called Zostavax. If they did, they still need two doses of Shingrix.
Shingrix is more than 90 percent effective at preventing shingles and long-term nerve pain. You may experience some short-term side effects because Shingrix causes a strong response in your immune system. The pain from shingles can last a lifetime, while the side effects from the shot should only last a few days.
Recommend pneumococcal disease vaccine for your older patients and coworkers
Each year in the United States, pneumococcal disease causes thousands of infections, such as meningitis, bloodstream infections, pneumonia, and ear infections. Most pneumococcal deaths in the U.S. occur in adults, yet 8 out of 10 adults with increased risk conditions remain unvaccinated. Four out of 10 adults age 65 or older are unvaccinated. The best way to prevent pneumococcal disease is to get the vaccine. Recommend pneumococcal vaccination for all adults 65 years or older and adults younger than 65 with chronic illnesses or conditions that weaken the immune system.
The importance of vaccination for people with chronic health conditions
Adults with certain chronic conditions are more likely to develop complications, including long-term illness, hospitalization and even death, from certain vaccine-preventable diseases. Here are vaccine recommendations for adults with these chronic conditions:
- Heart Disease – CDC recommends people with heart disease get a yearly flu vaccine. They should also get a pneumococcal vaccine once as an adult before 65 years of age and then two more doses at 65 years or older.
- Lung Disease – CDC recommends people with asthma, COPD, or other conditions that affect the lungs get a yearly flu vaccine. They should also receive a pneumococcal vaccine once as an adult before 65 years of age and then two more doses at 65 years or older.
- Diabetes – CDC recommends people with diabetes get a yearly flu vaccine and a hepatitis B vaccine series if they’re between the ages of 19 and 59. If they are 60 years or older, they should consult their doctor to see if they should receive hepatitis B vaccine. Pneumococcal vaccines are also recommended for people with diabetes once as an adult before 65 years of age and then two more doses at 65 years or older.
What are some recommendations for improving adult vaccination rates?
Most adults are not aware that they need vaccines. As a health care professional, a strong recommendation is a critical factor that affects whether your patients get vaccinated. CDC suggests using the SHARE method to make a strong vaccine recommendation and provide important information to help patients and coworkers make informed decisions about vaccinations:
- S: SHARE the reasons why vaccines is are an important defense against certain preventable diseases.
- H: HIGHLIGHT positive experiences with vaccines (personal or in your practice), as appropriate, to reinforce the benefits and strengthen confidence in vaccination.
- A: ADDRESS patient questions and any concerns about vaccines, including side effects, safety and vaccine effectiveness in plain and understandable language.
- R: REMIND patients that vaccines can protect them and their loved ones from serious illness and disease-related complications.
- E: EXPLAIN the potential costs of getting certain illnesses, including serious health effects, time lost (such as missing work or family obligations) and financial costs.
Did you know health care workers are at risk for exposure to serious, sometimes deadly diseases?
Health professionals who handle materials that could potentially spread infection should get the recommended and appropriate vaccines to reduce the chance of getting or spreading vaccine-preventable diseases. Health care workers can protect themselves, their patients and family members by making sure they are up-to-date with recommended vaccines.
Each year, thousands of adults needlessly suffer illness, are hospitalized, and even die as a result of vaccine-preventable diseases. As a health professional, you can increase awareness about the importance of adult immunization and encourage vaccination. Share fact sheets that can help adults understand why vaccination is so important, and which vaccines are recommended for them. CDC also has posters and flyers that can be used to encourage adult vaccination. With your help, we can improve vaccination rates and ensure that adults have the best protection against many diseases.
The Home Health Quality Improvement (HHQI) National Campaign provides many tools and resources to support immunizations, including:
- Immunization & Infection Best Practice Intervention Package
- 10 Common Flu Myths
- Immunization: Your Strongest Defense (patient video)