In this era of global communication and travel, we need to protect ourselves against potentially fatal infections and at the same time reduce the transmission of infections to people who are at high risk of developing fatal complications.
Childhood vaccinations are mandated in this country and have greatly reduced such diseases as diphtheria, measles, mumps and rubella to name a few. Parents often flinch when they glance at the elongating list of shots their kids are recommended to get in their first several years of life. By age six almost thirty vaccinations would have been received by a child who is up to date with their immunization schedule. The number of vaccinations required after age seven or older is much lower. But data on adults getting vaccinated for preventable diseases is disturbingly low, compared to children.
There are two vaccines every adult should receive:
Annual flu vaccination is currently recommended for all adults (as well as children 6 months and older who are not allergic to it).
Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis booster) is recommended for all adults who did not get it in childhood. Thereafter Td (tetanus and diphtheria) booster should be given every ten years. If you are due for a tetanus booster and never had Tdap you should get the Tdap in place of Td or pertussis alone. This can be done even if you are a couple of years early for your Td booster.
We’ve discussed the importance of getting a flu shot each year through a plethora of postings. The degree of risk compared to benefit is felt to greatly be in favor of getting vaccinated and is supported by the majority of U.S. health experts and health care providers.
Pertussis, the bacteria behind the disease “Whooping Cough” has received proportionately less attention on this site and in the media. Our site editor, Allison Tsai, provided an in-depth report on Whooping Cough and concerns about the increasing number of cases in July 2012.
The Centers for Disease Control recently reported nearly 10,000 cases of whooping cough nationwide, from January to June of this year. This figure represents a 24% increase compared to the same period last year. California has been hit particularly hard with new cases.
Although adult fatality from Whooping Cough is very low, infant mortality is high. The problem is adults are not as well immunized to pertussis (often more than ten years from the last booster or childhood pertussis vaccine) and therefore more likely to contract pertussis. They are less likely to get the characteristic whooping sound or vomiting after cough (typically seen in children with the disease) even though they may have the infection. This means they may more readily pass the infection on to other family, coworkers and friends. Vaccinated contacts may not be impacted by the adult with pertussis infection (because they have antibodies to protect them) but an infant child would be at high risk. Adults should get the recommended booster to protect themselves and others.
Pregnant women are highly recommended to have received Tdap near or during pregnancy (even right after if necessary) in order to protect the new born child. In fact, the CDC recommends getting Tdap each pregnancy.
What other vaccines are on the adult schedule?
Age, other medical problems, gender and travel plans determine what other vaccinations adults should consider getting. Here is a link a recommended adult immunization schedule.
Ask your doctor about vaccinations to consider when traveling out of the country. This link provides several important tasks to consider before traveling to faraway countries.
Vaccines have saved millions of lives across the nation and world. Research is ongoing and addresses ways to improve safety and effectiveness of current vaccines. Yes, every time we look around there’s another shot waiting for us, but the consequences of getting many of these horrible diseases can be much worse.
Remember, vaccines aren’t just for children. Adults have the responsibility of preserving their own health in order to be better caretakers of children (and sometimes parents) and avoid passing diseases on to them.
Is it time for your Tdap booster?
Published On: June 30, 2014