Joseph R. Anticaglia MD
Medical Advisory Board
You may think vaccinations are just for kids. Not so. Your need for vaccinations continues as you get older. For instance, you benefit by getting vaccinated against influenza annually during the fall or winter seasons. Moreover, you can benefit from newer vaccines which were not available when you were a youngster.
People also need “booster shots” as in Jim’s case. Jim is a 59 year old carpenter who stepped on a rusty nail and went to the emergency room. When he told the doctor he hadn’t had a tetanus shot in more than ten years, he was informed that the potency of vaccinations can over time fade away. Besides treating his foot, he received a tetanus booster shot (Td vaccine).
A vaccine is a biological substance that provides immunity (protects you against a particular disease) when the vaccine is introduced into the body. Hepatitis B vaccine provides protection against hepatitis B infection. Some viruses have been weakened (still alive) while others are killed before being given to you.
Once inside the body, the vaccine makes the immune system stronger to better fight and defeat disease. Many factors determine your need for vaccines as an adult, including: your job, health status, which vaccines you received in your life or your age.
All adults should get the influenza (flu) vaccine every year. The CDC estimated that during the 2018-2019 influenza season in the United States, approximately 35.5 million people got sick from the flu causing about 490,600 hospitalizations and 32,400 deaths.
Young adults can benefit from the HPV vaccine which offers protection against the human papillomavirus that causes cervical cancer, genital warts and anal cancer. Students entering universities or colleges may be required to be vaccinated against meningitis B due an increased risk of this infection in college residential environments.
Older adults, 50 years or older, ought to get the shingles vaccine. Almost 33% of Americans will develop shingles in their lifetime. Shingles is a viral infection caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. It causes a very painful rash.
It’s recommended that if you are 65 years or older, to get the pneumococcal vaccines which protect you against infections in the lungs and bloodstream. Additionally, adults younger than 65 years of age with chronic health problems can benefit from pneumococcal vaccines.
If you are pregnant, the CDC recommends you get the flu shot during the flu season and Tdap vaccine (between 27 and 36 weeks of pregnancy) to especially protect against whooping cough. The Tdap vaccine protects you from tetanus (lockjaw), diphtheria and pertussis (whooping cough).
Health care workers are potentially exposed to deadly diseases. Besides influenza vaccine and td or Tdap vaccine, it’s recommended they receive meningococcal vaccine and hepatitis B vaccine. They should consult their physicians regarding safety measures while at work.
If you plan to travel or live outside the U. S., double-check to see if you’re up to date with the recommended vaccinations. If you’re not up to date, get the recommended vaccines and any other vaccines six to eight weeks before departure. The CDC’s Travel Health site is one source which lists countries and the vaccinations you might need to get before going on your trip.
People with specific health conditions such as HIV, asthma, stroke, kidney, heart, lung, or liver disease need to consult their physician concerning their individual needs. Because of such health problems or other factors, individuals should not get certain vaccines or wait before getting them.
Our immune system weakens as we get older making us more susceptible to certain diseases. Keeping up to date with the recommended vaccines protect you and the people around you. They are crucial to public health. The relatively recent outbreak of measles in the U. S. is a glaring example of the importance of being up to date with vaccines.
This article is intended solely as a learning experience. Please consult your physician for diagnostic and treatment options.