For most adults, flu season marks the one time each year they consider getting vaccinated to protect themselves against disease. However, according to infectious disease experts with University of Iowa Health Care, flu is not the only vaccine-preventable disease that adults should think about.
“The big vaccines for adults to consider along with influenza vaccine are the shingles vaccine and the pneumococcal vaccine,” says Patricia Winokur, M.D., UI professor of internal medicine and director of the vaccine treatment unit.
“Vaccine-preventable diseases, including these three, cause significant illness and death in adults, particularly older adults and those with underlying medical conditions,” Winokur says. “A single dose of zoster vaccine is recommended for adults aged 60 and older to protect against shingles, and adults age 65 and older should get the pneumococcal vaccine — the ‘pneumonia’ shot — as should adults aged 18 to 64 who have chronic lung, heart, liver or kidney disease.”
Protecting yourself protects others
On top of these recommendations, Winokur notes there are some new guidelines regarding vaccines for adults that have implications for children’s health too.
“This year for the first time, the American Committee on Immunization Practices has recommended that adults 65 and older should get a single booster of tetanus/diphtheria/acellular pertussis if they have significant contact with infants and young children,” Winokur says. “The reason is that there are ongoing outbreaks of pertussis — whooping cough — in the country.
“Although older adults may have a bad cough from pertussis, they rarely have significant problems with the disease. However, they can transmit it to young children and these very young children can have severe disease that can lead to death,” Winokur explains.
Vaccinating adults to protect infants is called “cocooning.” This concept also plays into the CDC recommendations that all individuals age 6 months and older should be vaccinated against influenza. The goal in this case is to make sure that school-aged kids are vaccinated so they do not spread disease to grandparents and other older adults who are at greater risk for developing severe disease.
According to Winokur, there are a number of other vaccinations adults might also consider:
Winokur notes that most of these recommendations apply to healthy adults, and adults with underlying medical conditions might require modifications to the standard recommendations.
“It is always important to discuss the specifics with your physician,” she adds.
For more information on vaccines, visit http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/