Public health officials have long known adults tend to wane on their immunization updates. But having more men and women roll up their sleeves for a shot or two in the arm could reduce the burden of vaccine-preventable diseases.
The World Health Organization (WHO) is hoping to get the message out globally as it celebrates World Immunization Week (April 24-30, 2023), promoting the value of vaccines and immunization to protect people of all ages against preventable diseases.
Immunization in the Adult Population
“By receiving recommended vaccinations, adults have an increased chance of preventing disease and/or decreasing their severity of symptoms, if they would acquire these illnesses,” said Andrea Hruzek-Graber, A.P.R.N., a family medicine nurse practitioner at ThedaCare Physicians-Menasha. “It’s one of the best ways to stay healthy well into adulthood.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends an adult schedule, which includes mostly updates on some childhood vaccines to protect against diseases such as pneumonia, shingles or tetanus. This schedule also involves an annual flu shot and updates for COVID-19 variants. The CDC says this schedule is especially useful for adults “at risk for vaccine-preventable disease due to not only age but also job, lifestyle, travel, or health conditions.”
“Keep in mind, your vaccine schedule might change as you develop new health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease or obesity,” said Hruzek-Graber.
Health experts note three adult diseases that could be prevented, including:
- Influenza, a viral infection of the nose, throat and lungs, that could be deadly for people over the age of 65, or those with chronic illness or a compromised immune system. A flu shot is recommended annually for all adults.
- Shingles, a reactivation of the virus that causes chickenpox, can cause a painful, blistering rash. Vaccination is recommended in adults over 50.
- Pneumonia can be life-threatening when fluid fills the lungs’ air sacs. In general, a vaccination is recommended for all adults 65 and older.
Hruzek-Graber recommended adults get their Tdap vaccine every 10 years, which protects against a number of illnesses including pertussis, also known as whooping cough. It can lead to prolonged coughing and difficulty breathing.
“Infants are at highest risk for developing severe whooping cough symptoms that often lead to hospitalizations or death,” Hruzek-Graber said. “New parents or grandparents especially should get the pertussis update vaccine. Most often infants acquire the infection from parents, family, and/or caregivers. Adults who receive the Tdap vaccine provide protection to our most vulnerable population.”
Recommended Vaccines for Younger People
Parents tend to pay more attention to vaccines for their children. The CDC and
American Academy of Pediatrics detail recommended immunizations by age, saying vaccines are the best way for parents to protect their children from 16 potentially harmful diseases.
The Children’s Schedule notes immunizations for children from birth through 6 years old, starting with Hepatitis B and Rotavirus, and building up to COVID-19 and Influenza as well as Chickenpox shots.
The Teen Schedule recommends immunizations for children 7-to-18 years old – everything to protect against Tetanus to Meningococcal disease as well as catching up on missed childhood vaccinations.
The current recommendations from the CDC regarding Covid-19 booster doses state anyone ages 6 months and up receive a booster dose after completion of their primary series.
“It’s important to have a discussion with your health care provider regarding the timing and specific product used for your booster,” said Hruzek-Graber, “There are criteria outlined, based on age, type of previous vaccine of your primary series, and whether an individual is immunocompromised. Taking those factors into consideration, we decide when and what type of vaccine someone should receive.”
Your primary care team is a good resource for updated information on immunizations for adults and children alike.
“That is why we highly recommend annual wellness screenings,” Hruzek-Graber said. “At that time, we review what vaccines an individual might need. Most adults are unaware that they may be overdue or never received a recommended vaccine.”
A wellness exam allows for a discussion to help each person better understand the importance of immunizations and ask questions.
“Our primary goal is to help families protect, promote and maintain their health and to prevent disease,” said Hruzek-Graber. “We believe it’s important to keep vaccines and immunizations top of mind throughout life.”
Make an appointment for a wellness check, receive recommended vaccines, and find a primary care provider.
For more than 110 years, ThedaCare® has been committed to improving the health and well-being of the communities it serves in Northeast and Central Wisconsin. The organization delivers care to more than 600,000 residents in 17 counties and employs approximately 7,000 health care professionals. ThedaCare has 180 points of care, including eight hospitals. As an organization committed to being a leader in Population Health, team members are dedicated to empowering people to live their unique, best lives. ThedaCare also partners with communities to understand needs, finding solutions together, and encouraging health awareness and action. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care Network Member, giving specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts about a patient’s care. ThedaCare is proud to partner with Children’s Wisconsin and Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin health network to enhance convenient access to the most advanced levels of specialty care. ThedaCare is a not-for-profit health system with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs, as well as primary care.