Vaccinations: Important for adults and children

By Morgan Sherburne • Published: April 3rd, 2015
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

The myriad benefits of vaccinating your children have been well-covered in the media.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, vaccines not only protect children directly from many diseases, they also protect those who aren’t immunized through herd immunity. Herd immunity occurs when enough people in a population are immunized for a disease that it effectively protects those who aren’t from catching the illness.

But it’s important to remember children aren’t the only ones at risk. Adults should keep up on their vaccinations, too. About 50,000 adults die from vaccine-preventable diseases in the United States each year, according to the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases.

During the 2013 to 2014 flu season, only 34 percent of adults ages 18 to 64 received a flu shot, whereas 59 percent of children received the vaccine.

Vaccines that adults received long ago may need to be updated as well. Immunity to some diseases can lessen over time. Tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis, or whooping cough, require boosters every 10 years. Women ages 11 to 26 should receive the human papillomavirus vaccination. People who show no evidence of immunity to chickenpox, measles, mumps and rubella should also be vaccinated.

Older adults become susceptible to illnesses such as shingles. Adults over 65 can become vulnerable to pneumococcal disease, which can cause pneumonia, meningitis and sepsis. Vaccination against shingles, a virus that causes a painful rash and can lead to chronic pain, is recommended for adults over 60.

If you can’t remember the last time you received a vaccination, it’s time to dust off your immunization records, roll up your sleeve and take one for herd immunity.