Staying current on our vaccines is a lifelong, life-saving job. At all stages of our lives we are susceptible to a wide range of viruses and diseases that are preventable. Not all vaccines we received as children last a lifetime. We have a responsibility to ourselves and those around us to ensure our vaccinations are up to date and that we talk with our physicians about exploring new ones as they are released.
Adults, even healthy ones, need updated vaccinations for a variety of reasons-from age and lifestyle to travel plans. This is especially true for those with compromised immune systems or who suffer a chronic illness such as diabetes. Medications can also have an impact on how resistant our bodies are to certain types of infections. A typical adult inoculation regimen can include Influenza, Pneumococcal (Pneumonia), Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, whooping cough) and Zoster (shingles). The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) publishes annual recommendations for adults that have been reviewed and approved by leading medical provider organizations.
Every year tens of thousands of adults in the U.S. suffer from or succumb to vaccine-preventable illnesses:
Each year, an average of 226,000 people are hospitalized due to influenza and between 3,000 and 49,000 people die of influenza and its complications; the majority are among adults.
About 900,000 people get pneumococcal pneumonia every year, leading to as many as 400,000 hospitalizations and 19,000 deaths.
Of the approximately one million cases of shingles that occur annually, up to one in five cases (10-20%) will involve the eye.
The CDC has recently reported an upward trend in adult vaccinations, however the numbers still fall far short of their goals for the year 2020. For instance only 20% of adults age 19-64 are protected from pneumonia, and 28% over the age of 60 from shingles. Less than half of U.S. adults even get a flu shot annually. These numbers are quite low considering the easy access to safe and effective preventative measures.
Additional healthcare costs can be a concern for many on a fixed-income, but most private insurances provide major vaccinations with no copayment, even if yearly deductibles haven’t been met. Medicare part B will pay for flu and pneumonia boosters and Medicare part D, shingles and Tdap. Most state Medicaid agencies cover the cost of at least some vaccines.
We must remember that vaccinations don’t stop at childhood. Talking with our healthcare professionals is the first step in limiting the spread of serious diseases, keeping us and those around us healthy for generations to come.