Seasonal Flu Vaccinations May Not Be
Enough For Adults
Adults Should Immunize Against Other Vaccine-Preventable Diseases
School has started and children have their required immunizations.
Now many adults are gearing up to receive their annual flu vaccine.
But it's just as important for adults to make sure they have complete
and updated immunization records for other preventable diseases, says
Emory University physician Sharon Horesh. The National Coalition for
Adult Immunization reports that more than 30,000 adults in the United
States die from vaccine-preventable diseases or their complications
"Immunization efforts are mainly focused on children," Dr. Horesh says.
"Consequently, adults older than age 20 represent the majority of cases
of some preventable diseases."
Adults don't outgrow the need for immunizations. And despite popular
belief, childhood vaccines don't protect you for a lifetime, Dr. Horesh
Common adult vaccines include influenza, tetanus, diphtheria, rubella,
chicken pox, hepatitis B and pneumococcal disease:
- Seasonal flu vaccines are given every year because the flu virus
changes yearly. The best time to be immunized is between October and
November to provide protection during the December to March flu season.
- A Td booster combination shot protects against both tetanus and
diphtheria. Adults who have never received a tetanus vaccination or
have not had a Td booster shot in the last 10 years should be vaccinated.
- As many as 8 million women of childbearing age are susceptible to
rubella. Women who are planning pregnancy should wait to conceive
at least three months after being vaccinated. Women already pregnant
should wait until after the baby is born to be vaccinated. German
measles, as it is often called, can cause serious birth defects or
a miscarriage if a pregnant woman contracts it during the first trimester.
A combination MMR vaccine protects against measles, mumps and rubella.
- Although chicken pox is often considered a childhood disease, adults
are 10 times more likely to develop severe complications when infected
with the virus. One in 50 adults who develops chickenpox is hospitalized,
usually due to bacterial infections, pneumonia or brain inflammation.
- The hepatitis B virus is transmitted in similar ways as HIV, but
is 100 times more infectious. The virus can be transmitted through
sexual contact, needle sharing, or from mother to infant during birth.
It infects the liver and can lead to liver disease, liver cancer and
death in many cases. The hepatitis B vaccine is especially recommended
for adults in high-risk groups, including healthcare workers, public
safety workers or those with multiple sex partners.
- When pneumococcal disease invades the lungs it can cause pneumonia,
and when it attacks the tissues and fluids surrounding the brain and
spinal cord it causes meningitis. Pneumococcal disease causes up to
12,500 deaths each year in the United States, but almost 50% of the
deaths can be prevented through vaccination.
"Health care providers can help adults stay updated on their immunizations,"
Dr. Horesh suggested. "But it's up to the individual to keep a permanent
The date of the last vaccination, age, medical conditions, genetics,
specific exposures and the type of job are all determining factors
for an adult's vaccination needs.