Most children receive important vaccinations as they make their way through the early years. By the time we reach adulthood, however, many stop with vaccinations. U.S. health officials are worried about this. In fact, they reported last week that vaccination rates are not nearly what they should be.
Although vaccinations can cause reactions in some, for the most part getting a vaccination is a beneficial action to take. Because of vaccinations, only a fraction of the vaccine-preventable diseases we saw in the past century have returned to cause sickness, and only a fraction of the deaths and suffering from these diseases is part of our world today.
Experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) think all of these advances will be undone if people do not maintain their immunity as adults.
According to a recent survey, the rate of coverage for the pneumococcal vaccine (which is recommended for adults over the age of 65 to prevent pneumonia), has remained at 65%. However, when it comes to the herpes zoster vaccine, which prevents shingles and is recommended for adults aged 60 and over, only eight percent of the population is immunized.
Another vaccine the CDC would like to see more adults getting is the hepatitis B vaccine, which could prevent liver cancer. Coverage of this vaccine is now 41.8% among high-risk groups.
Recently, California has been in the grips of an ongoing whooping cough outbreak. Although whooping cough is not all that serious in adults, they can carry the disease and are highly infectious. The disease can then spread to infants and children easily. According to the CDC, several infants have died from the disease and thousands have been sickened by it. Although infants are vaccinated for whooping cough, they don’t develop full immunity until the third shot is given at six months of age. Children in the California outbreak are most likely being infected by adults who carry the disease.
Part of the problem with lagging adult vaccination numbers is a communication breakdown between doctors and patients, researchers say. According to survey results, 87% of doctors said they discussed vaccines with every patient, but 47% of patients say their doctor never talked to them about vaccinations except for the flu vaccine. The CDC feels that doctors are not having enough conversations about vaccines with their patients.
Talk to your doctor about vaccinations that are appropriate for your age and health status. Remember that vaccines are a way to create a barrier that protects you and the people around you. As diseases from the previous century re-emerge, remember that disease is likely more dangerous than the vaccine. It may not be wise to avoid every vaccine for fear of an adverse reaction.