Vaccines: Not just for kids
In 1952, there were around 58,000 reported cases of polio in the Unites States. There were 3,000 deaths due to the disease, which can cause back and/or neck pain and stiffness, fever, headache, muscle weakness or tenderness and, in rare cases, even paralysis and death, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Jonas Salk has been celebrated for his development of one of the first successful vaccines for polio. Since 1955, when that vaccine was responsible for significantly reducing the number of polio cases in the U.S. from 45,000 to less than 1,000 seven years later, vaccines have been a very effective way to stave off life-threatening illnesses.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends an ongoing schedule of vaccinations for infants, children and teens for preventable illnesses like measles, mumps, rubella, influzenza (the flu), chicken pox, HPV and more.
But older adults need vaccines, too. And there are a number of reasons why:
- Older adults may have compromised immune systems due to chronic health conditions. Vaccines can prevent complications from those conditions, including long-term illness, hospitalization or even death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
- With vaccinations, older adults can actually help to protect the younger people in their lives, including newborns who are too young for vaccinations. This is referred to as “herd immunity.”
- Illnesses like shingles, the flu or whooping cough can be detrimental to an older adult’s health – but they’re preventable with vaccines.
- Many older adults who experience vaccine-preventable illness may be in for a financial wallop. The cost of an illness – including doctor visits, medication costs and lost productivity, for example – can be very expensive.
Some vaccines are good for life after the recommended dose is completed at a young age. However, the effectiveness of other vaccines diminishes over time, thereby requiring a booster shot in adulthood. Some of those include chickenpox; measles, mumps, rubella; and HPV.
Adults who have certain medical conditions, like chronic liver disease, diabetes, heart or lung disease, for example, are at risk for developing certain vaccine-preventable conditions. Therefore, this population should receive vaccines to protect themselves against Hepatitis A and/or B; meningitis; and pneumococcal disease, for example.
On its website, the CDC offers a variety of information and tools to help adults understand why vaccinations throughout life are necessary; what vaccines they need; vaccine requirements for international travel to certain countries/regions; and more.
So, do yourself, your family and the people around you a favor: Protect yourself, and protect them. Get yourself vaccinated so you can live an active, healthy life.