Grown Ups Need Vaccination Too!
Blog by Dr. Divyahsree, M.D. Internal Medicine, Fellowship in Infectious Diseases
It is a common notion that vaccines are for children.
Although vaccination plays a very important role in preventing childhood infections, adults too need vaccination !
Protection from childhood vaccination wears off with time and many adults may become susceptible to infections.This has serious implications , more so for pregnant women and the elderly (>60 years). Adult vaccination needs can be categorized as per individual risk status broadly into normal healthy adults, pregnant women, elderly individuals, special situations and travel related.
The recommendations differ accordingly.
HEALTHY ADULTS :
Apparently normal and healthy individuals too need vaccination as infection can have far reaching consequences from self limiting illness to as unfortunate as death.
1. Hepatitis B is a serious viral infection which predominantly affects the liver, with a spectrum ranging from jaundice with mild illness to severe liver dysfunction and rarely cancer too.
This infection can spread from person to person based on the extent of interaction with a positive patient.Hepatitis B vaccine provides complete protection and prevents the risk associated with this viral infection.
2. Annual influenza vaccination is recommended for all adults to protect themselves from the common seasonal flu.The vaccine can help people from falling sick due to flu and prevent work absenteeism.Since flu is highly communicable, vaccinating people prevents transmission to further contacts and overall reduces the number of people from falling ill in the family and other close contacts.
3. Whooping cough and diphtheria previously considered diseases of childhood are making a resurgence and vulnerable young adults are at risk of suffering from these menacing illnesses.
One dose of tetanus-diphtheria-pertussis (Tdap) vaccine is also recommended for adults who have not received the vaccine during their adolescence.This vaccine also provides protection against tetanus.
4.Varicella(Chickenpox) vaccine is recommended for adults if they did not have a natural infection in the past as adult varicella can be devastating with increased risk of complications.
5.Women planning to start a family can get screened themselves for measles, mumps, rubella, varicella as getting the infection during pregnancy or just prior to becoming pregnant can have has serious implications both for the mother as well as the unborn child.
Prior to pregnancy a screening test can identify at risk patient and vaccination can be offered to vulnerable patients.After a safe period, patients can plan pregnancy.
PREGNANT WOMEN :
Newborns who are too young to get vaccinated are at high risk of several illness.
By getting vaccinated during pregnancy, the protection can be passed on to the baby as well.
A single dose of Tdap during the each pregnancy is recommended to reduce the risk of whooping cough and pertussis in newborn children.
Pregnant women can get quite ill due to flu which can have serious implications leading to hospitalization and further course. Hence flu vaccine is also recommended for all pregnant women.
ELDERLY PATIENTS :
Older patients specially above 65 years even without diabetes, hypertension, lung /heart / kidney disease are at risk of respiratory illness caused by a bacteria named Pneumococci which can be life threatening.
Hence 2 different types of vaccine against pneumococci are recommended for all patients over the age of 65 years. This offers very good protection against a wide range of illnesses caused by the bacteria.
Influenza is another infection which can have serious effects in the elderly population. Hence an annual vaccine is recommended for all people over the age of 50 years.
Herpes Zoster is debilitating condition in patients over 50 years of age not just during the time of infection but for many years following the episode, patients continue to experience the ill effects of the infection with severe pain.
2 doses of the Zoster vaccine can relieve the patients from this dreaded condition.
SPECIAL POPULATIONS :
In addition to routine vaccinations, patients with kidney disease, lung disease, liver disease, heart disease, cancers, HIV patients and other immunosuppressive conditions, certain vaccines are recommended based on the risk assessment.
INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL :
Travel to certain countries mandates protection from few existing diseases at the place of visit. The recommendations vary according to the country of visit and needs to be taken well before the travel so that protection is in place upon arrival at the country.
Taking vaccination at the right time can prevent avoidable illness.