By Patricia Jones, Alliance Poverty Task Force
We’ve all seen the signs around town: Free Flu Shots, COVID Vaccines Here. We all got a series of shots when we were children so we wouldn’t get things like polio. So why should we get vaccinated when we are adults?
Adults need to keep their vaccinations up to date because immunity from childhood vaccines can wear off over time. You are also at risk for different diseases as an adult. Vaccination is one of the most convenient and safest preventive care measures available. Adults expecting a new grandchild need to make sure vaccinations are current before the baby arrives.
Since flu viruses change each year, people should get the new flu vaccine annually. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends a yearly flu shot for everyone over the age of six months. Influenza (flu) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat, and lungs. Older people, young children, and people with certain health conditions are at higher risk of serious flu complications. The flu vaccine can prevent up to 70% of hospitalizations and 87% of deaths from flu-related pneumonia. It is important to remember you cannot get the flu from the vaccine. The flu vaccine will not protect you from other respiratory infections, such as colds and bronchitis.
Children receive the Td or Tdap vaccine to protect against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (whooping cough). Because tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis can occur in adults, all adults should receive a booster shot every 10 years, including one dose of Tdap for those under the age of 65. A doctor may recommend a vaccine sooner for a pregnant woman or a person with a puncture wound.
The COVID-19 vaccine is now recommended for everyone age 12 and older. Pfizer is the only one approved for under age 18.
You may need other vaccines based on your age, health conditions, job, lifestyle, or travel habits. This is a discussion you should have with your doctor.
The zoster vaccination, Shingrix, is recommended for age 50 and older. Shingles (herpes zoster) occurs when someone who previously had chicken pox (varicella) has reactivation of the virus in their body. After you've had chicken pox, the virus lies inactive in nerve tissue near your spinal cord and brain. Years later, the virus may reactivate as shingles. Shingles isn't a life-threatening condition, but it can be very painful. The most common complication is postherpetic neuralgia, which causes shingles pain for a long time after your blisters have cleared. 50% of persons age 85 years and older will have had shingles at least one time.
Pneumococcal pneumonia is the most common type of pneumonia, and accounts for up to one-third of all types of pneumonia that lead to hospitalization. The pneumonia vaccine is recommended for anyone age 65 and older.
Several more vaccinations are recommended for people who have certain medical conditions because they affect a person’s immune system. These include pregnancy, diabetes, alcoholism, and heart, lung, or liver disease.
If you plan to travel to another country, you may be at risk for diseases not normally found in the United States. The CDC recommends that you first make sure you are up-to-date on your routine vaccines, then research your destination. Some nations require specific vaccinations for diseases like yellow fever. Other vaccines recommended for a traveler depend on several things, including age, health, and itinerary. Plan to get the travel vaccines you need at least a month before your trip.
All the pharmacies and several clinics in our area give vaccinations. People do not need to make appointments at the pharmacies, but are asked to come during slower times, like in the morning. Some of the travel vaccines have to be specially ordered, so you will need to contact the pharmacist in advance.
Insurance companies pay for vaccinations, as they prevent illnesses that can be much more expensive. Flu shots and the COVID vaccine are offered at no cost, but if you are insured, you are asked to bring your card. The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services has an Adult Immunization Program (AIP). Contact Western Community Health Resources, 619 Box Butte in Alliance, phone 308-432-8979, if you need financial or other assistance regarding vaccinations.