Vaccines have received a lot of criticism recently, but no other health intervention is more effective at reducing the spread of infection.Vaccines stimulate the immune system to recognize a specific organismas foreign, destroy it, and “remember” it, resulting in immunity to the disease that the organism causes. Immunity can decrease over time for many diseases, so adults who received vaccines in childhood may require a “booster.” Below is a list of recommended vaccines for adults.
Common symptoms of the flu virus include fever, cough, muscle aches, and fatigue. Flu season occurs between October and Mayand up to 1 in 5 people in the U.S. get the disease.The flu can weaken the immune system, which can lead to complications like pneumonia, blood infections, or death.The flu vaccine reduces the risk of having the disease by half and results in shorter and less severe illness in individuals who get the flu despite vaccination. The flu shot is recommended every year for everyone age 6 months and older.
Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria can cause many types of illnesses including pneumonia, meningitis, bloodstream infections, and sinus infections. It is estimated that 900,000 Americans get pneumococcal pneumonia each year and about 5-7% die from it.There are two vaccines for pneumococcus (PCV13 (Prevnar) and PPSV23 (Pneumovax)) and they are recommended for adults with certain chronic illnesses and all adults who are 65 years or older.
Shingles (Herpes zoster)
Shingles is a painful rash that develops on one side of the face or body and is caused by the varicella zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox. After a person recovers from chickenpox, the virus stays dormant in the body and can reactivate years later, causing shingles. Almost 1 out of every 3 people in the United States will develop shingles in their lifetime. As many as 20-30% of people who develop shingles get post-herpetic neuralgia or severe pain in the areas where they had the shingles rash, even after the rash clears up.The shingles vaccine is recommendedfor all individuals age 60 and older.
Tetanus is an infection caused by bacteria called Clostridium tetani. Tetanus bacteria are everywhere in the environment, including soil, dust and manure. The bacteria can get into the body through broken skin, usually through injuries from contaminated objects. Tetanus infection causes painful muscle tightening and stiffness which can lead to difficulty breathing (death occurs on 10-20% of cases). A tetanus booster shot is recommended every 10 years in adulthood.
Whooping cough (Pertussis)
Pertussis is a very contagious disease that usually starts with cold-like symptoms and can progress to a severe cough that can last up to ten weeks.Pertussis is most dangerous for babies and can cause them to stop breathing. Vaccine protection for pertussis fades with time, so all adults 19 and older who have not previously received a Tdap vaccine need a booster shot.
Additional vaccines are recommended for adults with certain chronic diseases or who were not vaccinated in childhood. The adult vaccination schedule is updated every year so talk to your doctor about your vaccination history and what may be appropriate for you.
By: Shanna Ndong, MD