Adult vaccinations

Adult vaccinations

While it’s often understood that vaccinations are important for the health and wellbeing of children, it is often forgotten that immunizations also play a critical role in adult healthcare.

The COVID-19 pandemic reminded many of us of the efficacy of vaccines, but there are several other immunizations recommended for adults, and it is vital that you talk with your healthcare professionals to ensure that you receive these doses at the right time – to ensure your optimal health.

“Vaccines are very important just in general. They help protect not only your health, but they also protect those around you, by providing herd immunity. It’s a term we’ve all probably grown to love or hate over the last two years. But it’s still true,” said Dr. Lee Dinning, D.O., a family medicine practitioner that works with Community Medical Associates in Washington.

Immunization against conditions such as shingles, pneumonia, and the flu can help keep adults, especially seniors, from developing severe symptoms to infection and out of the hospital – or worse. And by receiving a vaccination you can also perform a selfless act by helping to stop the spread of potentially serious illnesses and protect the small portion of the population that cannot physically receive immunization.

Vaccines offer extraordinary healthcare via simple delivery. During an immunization, a doctor will deliver an antigen into your body – either through a shot or nasal inhaler. This antigen is a killed or weakened virus. This process allows the body’s immune system to recognize the antigen and create antibodies against a particular disease. Those antibodies remain in your system, effectively tricking your body into thinking you’ve already had a certain disease. The result is that the antibodies are always in your body, so if you are exposed to that specific infection, they will spring into action. This process ensures that you either don’t get sick or that your symptoms are much milder.

“The goal of vaccination, you may not completely prevent an illness, but it’s to reduce the severity, so you don’t end up in the hospital and thereby overwhelm your hospital system. Vaccines also reduce overall mortality, which I think most have been proven to do very well,” Dr. Dinning said. “Vaccines also help provide herd immunity to those who do not have the opportunity to get vaccinated because of issues such as allergies, immunocompromised, or other factors. You do need large numbers of people to have either had the illness and be protected that way or have a vaccine, which basically allows them to have that protection on the forefront.”

Because we ordinarily live in a relatively healthy community, many adults seem to forget that it is important to ask about or receive immunization. And while the COVID-19 vaccine proved a timely reminder of the usefulness of immunizations, it is vital to stay up to date on other boosters.

It is also important to learn the truth about vaccines and understand what healthcare experts know – while discarding many of the myths that are so easily available on the internet or on social media.

“There are lot of reasons that adults may not be up to date on their vaccines, perhaps the biggest one that I have personally seen, particularly in light of the most recent pandemic, has been that there’s a lot of misinformation out there,” Dr. Dinning said. “On social media there is no filter of true versus untrue, biased-unbiased, there’s no filter whatsoever, so you’re left to sort that out on your own. And I don’t think that average person is necessarily an expert of doing that. And it really creates a sense of distrust when they see biased articles that confirm their own biases and are not necessarily true in the real world.”

Safe, effective, and proven, immunizations do not create health concerns. In fact, they offer the exact opposite: safety.

For proof, look at the history of diseases such as mumps or measles, which used to cause serious medical complications or even death in otherwise healthy adults. Yet, according to the CDC, since the two-dose MMR vaccination program was introduced in 1989, mumps cases in the United States decreased more than 99%, with only a few hundred cases reported most years.

However, as misinformation spread about what was in vaccines and what they meant to the overall health of children and adults, doctors began to see a rebound of diseases that were very nearly eliminated. In fact, in 2018 there were 2,000 reported cases of mumps.

Measles also recently reappeared in significant numbers. And, in 2018, the disease broke the record number of cases in a single year since it was considered eliminated in 2000. The vast majority of these cases occurred in people who were not vaccinated.

“I think a lot of people think it’s extremely important as a child to get vaccinated because there’s a lot of things that under the age of 18, that do not now, but once upon a time either maimed or killed children. And then we often forget about from 18 until about 50, and at that point we need another round of vaccines,” Dr. Dinning said. “Our immune systems have possibly gone down at that point, and it’s very important to start thinking about the vaccinations you’re going to need based on the conditions you have developed over the last 50-65 years going forward. Certain things hit adults harder than they do children, and particularly adults who are at risk if they’ve got conditions – heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity. Almost any of those add an extra level of risk.”

Included amongst adult vaccinations are:

  • Flu shot – every year
  • Pneumonia shot – after age 65
  • Shingles shot – after age 50
  • TDAP (Tetanus, Diphtheria, Pertussis) booster – every 10 years
  • COVID-19 shot and booster

These vaccines do not cause infection. However, some patients may experience a mild reaction at the vaccine site or low-grade fever, headache, or muscle aches.

“Prior to the pandemic, the vaccines I would recommend for adults is at the age of 50 the two dose Shingrex vaccine, regardless of if you’ve ever gotten Zostavax (for shingles), which is what they used to give to 65 years and up,” Dr. Dinning said. “At age 65 Prevnar 13, followed a year later by pneumococcal 23 or Pneumovax 23, annual flu shot, and then, depending on what conditions you had, you may need a pneumococcal 23 vaccine given between 45-65. Diabetes, heart disease, a lot of things that put you at additional risk. Covid-19 (vaccine) I also strongly recommend for everybody who has at least not already had natural Covid.”

Vaccines are simple, incredibly effective, and extraordinarily safe – and they should be a part of your healthcare regimen throughout your life. Always talk with your physician about any questions or concerns about vaccines. Contact us if you have questions or are looking for a healthcare provider.

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