Vaccines: Not Just for Children
Almost everyone is familiar with the seemingly never-ending litany of vaccines an infant gets and the rites of passage to get booster shots before entering kindergarten and high school. But is everyone in your family up to date on their vaccines?
“Vaccines are critical for the prevention of certain infectious diseases,” said Dr. Edward Goodman, epidemiologist and physician on the medical staff at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas. “Adults require certain vaccines as well as children.”
“The failure to administer certain vaccines such as measles is partly responsible for the huge measles outbreak in California in 2014,” he added.
“We need to keep vaccinating because we have a global community — people travel across continents regularly, and they go to places where vaccine-preventable diseases are endemic,” said Gregory Sonnen, M.D., pediatrician and physician on the medical staff at Texas Health Rockwall.
The Centers for Disease Control also updated the vaccine schedule this year to include a new vaccine for human papillomavirus (HPV), as well as a recommendation to add a meningitis vaccine.
The MenB vaccine options protect against Meningococcal Serotype B infections, which attack the lining of the brain and spinal cord and can be fatal or result in permanent disability.
“Meningococcal disease is important in college freshmen living in dorms and military recruits,” Goodman explained. “The CDC has recommended the vaccine at age 12-13 and again at 18 so that these vulnerable young adults are protected.”
“Recently, an additional meningococcal vaccine has been approved and can be used but it is not mandated,” he added. “In addition, certain individuals at high risk for meningococcal disease should be vaccinated at an earlier age.”
In addition to the meningococcal vaccine, the CDC also recommended adding a vaccine option for HPV. The vaccine is recommended for children ages 11 to 12, but a new vaccine, 9vHPV, protects against nine types of the virus. The previous two vaccines protected four and two types. All three vaccines protect against the most common types of HPV to cause cervical cancer.
“The vaccine has the biggest benefit when given prior to any sexual activity,” said Dr. Sheri Puffer, an OB/GYN at Texas Health Arlington Memorial Hospital. “You can be exposed to HPV, including the strains that cause cancer, during your first sexual experience. HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection — virtually all men and women are exposed to it at some point in their lives.”
As for adults, the CDC recommends a flu vaccine every year and the Td and Tdap vaccines — which protect against whooping cough, diphtheria and tetanus — every 10 years, provided the adult had the full complement of vaccines as a child. If you didn’t get an HPV vaccine as a child, the CDC recommends catch-up vaccines for men up to age 21 and women up to age 26. For adults 60 and older, the agency recommends adding a vaccine for shingles, and for adults 65 and older or adults who have specific health risks, a vaccine for pneumococcal disease. In addition, certain vaccines may be needed to travel to other countries or for specific occupations.
And while it might seem like adult vaccinations aren’t all that important, the CDC said that many of the preventable illnesses hospitalize or even kill adults every year.
“Each year, on average, more than 200,000 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,” the CDC said, adding that “700,000 to 1.4 million people suffer from chronic hepatitis B, with complications such as liver cancer.”
Most vaccinations can be administered by your doctor or even at a local pharmacy or county health department. Need a pediatrician or primary care physician? Texas Health Resources offers an easy-to-use tool.