Vaccines for Adults

Vaccines for Adults | Dr. Ali Ghahary

From approximately 2 months to 6 years of age, it is recommended by healthcare professionals that children get a variety of different vaccinations in effort to help protect them against disease. Among some of the most common include chickenpox, measles, mumps and rubella, hepatitis (both A and B), whopping cough, pneumococcal, polio, rotavirus, tetanus, and of course influenza. But in today’s day and age, it’s not just the young ones that need to get their immunizations, as many vaccines can also be beneficial to adults, too. Below is a look at some of the vaccines that are recommended for adults, why you need them, and how they work.

Influenza

This is, perhaps, one of the most common vaccinations out there today. Influenza, also known as the flu, comes in many different strains and is spread through airborne droplets which get inhaled into the lungs. These droplets are usually released by sneezing, coughing, or even something as simple as talking, which makes influenza and easy-to-catch illness, causing symptoms such as general body aches and pains, fever, and in some cases can also result in hospitalization and even death.

The flu vaccine is recommended for those over 6 months of age, as well as individuals who are at risk of developing the flu or flu-related complications, such as women who are pregnant, those with underlying medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and asthma, or those who have already-compromised immune systems. Many people will often fail to get the flu vaccine if they feel they do not get the flu enough – however, it is possible to be infected with the virus but not develop any bothersome symptoms, which means it’s still possible to transmit the illness, thus putting others at risk. If you are already ill, it is important to wait until you have recovered before being vaccinated. Furthermore, you should not get the flu vaccine if you are allergic to eggs or gelatin.

As for the effectiveness of the flu vaccine, getting vaccinated doesn’t necessarily mean that you won’t get the flu. It does, however, significantly decrease your risk – in addition to decreases the severity and length of your symptoms should you develop influenza. The type of flu vaccine you receive will also depend on the strains of influenza that epidemiologists determine to be the most prevalent for the current flu season.

Shingles

Shingles is a condition that originates from the varicella virus, otherwise known as the chickenpox, which remains dormant. If the virus gets reactivated, it develops into a blistering and painful rash, which can cause everything from scarring to vision loss, and can even lead to debilitating chronic pain as well as increase the risk of stroke and heart attack.

The shingles vaccine is recommended for individuals age 50 or older, as well as for those with weakened immune systems. Depending on the type of shingles vaccination you get, it can be anywhere from 50 to 90 percent effective. If you received the Zostavax vaccine, which is an older form of the shingles vaccination, it is recommended that you get re-vaccinated with the more-effective Shingrix – though pharmaceutical companies have warned that there may be shortages as it is currently in high demand.

Note: If you’re an adult and have never had chickenpox, you can still be vaccinated against it. Developing the chickenpox as an adult puts you at an increased risk of developing complications, such as encephalitis and pneumonia. To find out whether or not you have or haven’t had the chickenpox/vaccine, your doctor can send you for a blood test that shows no immunity to varicella.

MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella)

Until recently, the measles was thought to have been eradicated, though it has been popping back up in alarming numbers across North America lately. Measles is a highly contagious disease, and it can often take anywhere from 7 to as many as 18 days after exposure to the virus before you notice any symptoms, which include things like fever, cough, runny nose, red eyes, fatigue, and irritability. After approximately 3 to 7 days following these symptoms, a blotchy rash develops on the face and spreads down the body, lasting for anywhere from 4 to 7 days. It is also possible to develop complications as a result of having the measles, including ear infections, pneumonia, and blindness, just to name a few. If you or your child develop what you think are the measles, it is important that you first call your healthcare provider over the phone and describe your symptoms to avoid exposing others to the virus. Measles can be confirmed through a variety of tests, including a blood test, urinalysis, or nasopharyngeal swab.

Unfortunately, there is no treatment for the measles once you have the virus, and it is just a matter of letting nature take its course. You can, however, get the MMR vaccine. To protect against it. Most people will generally only need a booster shot, though you may no longer be immune to the virus if you received your initial vaccination between the years 1963 and 1989.

For more information on vaccines for adults, visit immunizebc.ca.