Vaccinations are just as important for adults as for kids

Flu, pneumonia, shingles vaccines are among many that health care providers recommend for all adults at various ages

Despite the widespread availability of safe and effective vaccines, adult immunization rates remain low in the U.S. — and far below the targets set by Healthy People 2020, a national agenda to improve the health of Americans.

“Many people associate immunizations with childhood and teen years; however, there are two recommended vaccine schedules — one for children and another for those over age 18,” said Paul Schulz, M.D., infectious disease physician and system epidemiologist with Norton Healthcare. “The immunization schedule for adults helps to boost previously received vaccines as well as add news ones for preventable diseases.”

Adults need to be vaccinated for multiple reasons, including reducing the risk of death from diseases that can be prevented, and protecting themselves and their loved ones from diseases.

Although immunizations are important for everyone, some people are more at risk and should be vigilant about the immunizations they get.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), these include:

  • People who travel abroad
  • Gay or bisexual men
  • Health care workers
  • Military members
  • People with health conditions
  • Pregnant women

Some key vaccines listed on the immunization schedule include:

  • Influenza (flu), which is an annual vaccination
  • Tdap, which is recommended every 10 years and includes tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (whooping cough)
  • Measles, mumps and rubella (MMR), which requires one or two doses depending on personal medical history

“In addition to annual and ongoing immunizations, two vaccines are strongly recommended for people over 50,” Dr. Schulz said.

  • The shingles vaccine is recommended for everyone over age 50.
  • The pneumonia vaccine is recommended for everyone over age 65.

Shingles is a viral infection that causes a painful rash. Although shingles can occur anywhere on your body, it most often appears as a single strip of blisters that wraps around one side of the torso. Shingles is caused by the varicella zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox. After you have had chickenpox, the virus remains inactive in nerve tissue near the spinal cord and brain. Years later, the virus may reactivate as shingles.

“Although shingles is not considered to be a life-threatening virus, patients report extreme pain and discomfort,” Dr. Schulz said. “A significant concern with shingles is if it appears near the eye, making treatment extremely challenging.”

Pneumonia can be caused by either bacteria or a virus. It is a lung inflammation in which air sacs fill with pus and may become solid. It can affect both lungs (double pneumonia), one lung (single pneumonia) or certain lobes (lobar pneumonia). The CDC reported more than 544,000 hospitalizations due to pneumonia in 2015.

Another vaccine to consider is to prevent hepatitis A. The vaccine is now part of the recommended childhood vaccination schedule and required for all school-age children in Kentucky; however, many adults have not been vaccinated. Hepatitis A is a highly contagious liver infection. Although anyone can get hepatitis A, according to the CDC some people are at greater risk, such as those who:

  • Travel to or live in countries where hepatitis A is common
  • Have sexual contact with someone who has hepatitis A
  • Are men who have sexual encounters with other men
  • Use recreational drugs, whether injected or not
  • Have clotting-factor disorders, such as hemophilia
  • Are household members or caregivers of a person with hepatitis A

“Overall, the immunization schedule can be managed easily with support from your primary care provider,” Dr. Schulz said. “The convenience of MyNortonChart allows patients to easily check on immunization records, allowing for follow-up during your next office visit.”

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