By Stephanie Thompson RN, Eberhardt Village Community Nurse
August is national immunization awareness month. There has been a lot of talk in the media about children not getting immunizations, but the need for immunizations does not end with childhood. Each year, thousands of adults in the United States suffer serious health problems, are hospitalized or even die from diseases that could be prevented by vaccines. Some of these include whooping cough, influenza, certain bacterial infections, hepatitis A & B, shingles and even some cancers.
For instance, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported that though the shingles vaccine is recommended for all adults over age 60, only an estimated 15.8% of that population received it. Furthermore, less than 1/3 of females 19-26 years have received the HPV vaccine which prevents infection with the human papillomavirus, the virus that can lead to cervical cancer.
There are many factors why so few adults are receiving the immunizations thy need to maintain good health. One of the simplest reasons is that many people don’t realize the need for adults to receive vaccines. It has been reported that 40% of adults believe they do not need vaccines because they were vaccinated as a child.
Protection from some childhood immunizations wears off over time, leaving you vulnerable to disease. There has been a rise in the adult cases of whooping cough for example. Adults are now recommended to get one booster of Tdap whooping cough vaccine.
Some other reasons for adults not being immunized are gaps in insurance coverage, inability to pay for vaccines if not covered by insurance and limitations to access to care.
Many adults may be recommended for certain vaccines due to age, illnesses, hobbies or jobs. Some adults might be at higher risk of serious complications from vaccine preventable diseases.
Adult immunization does not only protect the person receiving but loved ones and those in the community as well. Vaccines can be obtained at your healthcare provider, pharmacies, work places, and health departments.