Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Adults: Vaccines are Not Just for Kids

By Alan C. Howell, MD, Temple

Member, Texas Medical Association (TMA) Be Wise — Immunize℠ Physician Advisory Panel and TMA Committee on Infectious Diseases

Vaccinations provide the best and most cost-effective way for physicians and patients to work together when it comes to preventing certain infections. For parents, this fact is reinforced by childhood vaccination schedules and school requirements. During National Immunization Awareness Month in August (and particularly now, during adult immunization week Aug. 26-31), let’s not forget that vaccinations remain an important pillar of health for all age groups, including adults

To understand what shots adults need, let’s review the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended immunization schedule for adults.

Zoster: A new, more effective vaccine to prevent shingles, a painful rash, now is available for adults aged 50 years and older. Shingrix was approved in late 2017. Soon after, the national panel that makes vaccination recommendations, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, endorsed Shingrix over the existing Zostavax vaccine to prevent shingles and its complications. Shingrix provides greater and longer lasting protection from shingles, compared with Zostavax. Full coverage from Shingrix requires two doses administered two to six months apart. Adults are at risk for shingles, or herpes zoster, if they had chickenpox as a child. 

Tdap: All adults should receive a single Tdap booster to protect from tetanus, diphtheria, and acellular pertussis (whooping cough). After that, a tetanus (Td) booster is recommended every 10 years. A caveat to this is that pregnant women should receive one dose of Tdap with EACH pregnancy to protect themselves and their baby.

Pneumococcal: Pneumonia and bloodstream infections are two results of pneumococcal disease. Two vaccines are available to prevent the disease. Adults over age 65 and others with certain health conditions should receive both to provide the greatest protection. See the CDC guidelines about timing of the shots and specific indications

HPV: A vaccine to reduce the risk of cancer? Yes, please! Two to three doses are needed, depending if you get the shots before or after age 15. Females can get vaccinated through age 26. All males can get vaccinated through age 21, and some can get it through 26 years of age. 

Influenza (flu): I would be remiss if I didn’t include flu shots when talking about disease prevention. This past season was extremely severe and long. In fact, nearly 10,000 Texans lost their lives because of flu-related illness. We don’t know yet if the 2018-19 flu season will be as severe. Regardless, starting in September/October, the influenza vaccination should be a routine talking point between patients and their physician. Get your flu shot!

Though I touched on only five vaccinations, other shots listed on the adult immunization schedule are equally important, depending on age, lifestyle, and health conditions. Talk with your doctor to make sure you’ve had all the vaccinations you need. And, remember, no matter your age, vaccines are a valuable tool for everyone’s well-being. 

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