Immunizations not just for kids

2013-12-18T11:38:00Z Immunizations not just for kidsChristine Bryant nwitimes.com
December 18, 2013 11:38 am  • 

Parents with young children know immunizations is a common topic at the pediatrician's office. However, doctors warn vaccinations aren't only for kids. Here are some vaccinations doctors recommend for adults.

Influenza

All adults should get the influenza vaccination each year, says Dr. Geraldine Feria, a member of the Porter Physician Group and a physician with Wanatah Primary Care.

This is especially important for new parents if their babies will not have reached the 6 month mark yet during the winter period, she says.

"We cannot give the flu shot to babies younger than 6 months," she says.

Those with high risk of serious complications if they catch the flu, such as the elderly or people with chronic illnesses and weakened immune systems, also are advised to get vaccinated.

While some vaccinations last several years - even decades - the flu vaccine only protects for one year because it is based on what experts believe will be the top three or four virus strains that year.

"The flu shot should be given yearly, as the formulation within the vaccine changes every year based on existing circulating strains," says Dr. Kamo Sidhwa, who is part of Metro Infectious Disease Consultants and on staff at Advocate South Suburban Hospital.

Tdap (Pertussis)

"Pertussis (Tdap) vaccine is certainly one of the very important vaccines for adults," says Dr. Charlene Graves, chairman of the Immunization Committee of the Indiana Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

More commonly known as whooping cough, pertussis cases or outbreaks were reported in a majority of states in 2012, with 49 states and Washington, D.C. seeing increases in cases compared to 2011, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

While pertussis can have a mild effect on adults, it can be deadly to young children.

"Influenze and pertussis in particular can cause mild upper respiratory illnesses in adults, but in babies, can cause severe respiratory distress and occasionally death," Sidhwa says.

The Tdap is a 3-in-1 vaccine that offers protection against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis. The Centers for Disease Control recommends getting a Tdap vaccine once, and then a Td (tetanus and diphtheria) booster every 10 years.

Feria says it's especially important to get immunized if routine contact will be made with a young child.

"The OB community is doing a good job in advising parents to get it and advising grandma and grandpa to get a booster, so when new baby comes along, they won't give pertussis to the baby," she says.

Shingles

The shingles vaccination, called the Varicella Zoster vaccine, should be considered for older adults because the virus can be especially debilitating in this patient population, Sidhwa says.

Shingles is a painful localized skin rash caused by the same virus that causes the chickenpox. Anyone who has had the chickenpox can develop shingles because the virus remains in a person's nerve cells even after the infection clears. The virus can reappear several years later - causing shingles.

The vaccination protects a person's body from a reactivation of the virus.

Though the CDC recommends the vaccine be given to those 60 and older, the vaccination has been licensed and approved for those 50 and older.

Pneumococcal

Like the flu, contracting pneumonia at an older age can be a serious health threat, Graves says.

"The pneumonia vaccine is recommended for seniors and for other people of all ages who have medical conditions that make them high-risk for pneumococcal infections," she says.

The CDC recommends those with certain risks related to their health, job or lifestyles that put them at higher risk for contracting pneumonia receive the vaccination in one to three doses throughout adulthood. However, doctors also recommend every adult over 60 to 65 receive the immunization.

"Sixty and over we want them to get the pneumonia shot, especially if they're diabetic, asthmatic or have bad COPD," Feria says. "Those are really the ones you want to target, along with those whose immune systems are compromised."

HPV

"A potential new vaccine that adults should be aware of is the HPV, which is indicated for young adults age 19 to 26," Sidhwa says.

Human Papillomavirus - or HPV - is a common virus spread through sexual contract. Most who have HPV have no symptoms, and there are about 40 types of the virus - including some that can cause cervical cancer in women and other types of cancer in both men and women.

The HPV vaccine prevents the most common types of HPV that cause cervical cancer and genital warts, and it's given in three doses.

Hepatitis B

Though babies are given Hepatitis B vaccinations as part of their routine schedule of immunizations, doctors say adults who haven't been vaccinated, should.

A virus causes Hepatitis B, a disease that attacks the liver. It can cause infection, cirrhosis of the liver, cancer, liver failure and even death.

"This is one of few vaccines that can prevent liver cancer," Feria says.

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