shutterstock_173815904 We’re always hearing about how important it is for children to be vaccinated. But how many of us know that adult vaccinations can save lives? In a lifetime, you never outgrow your need for vaccines. Even if you have been vaccinated as a child, protection from some vaccines can wear off or the virus can evolve leaving you defenceless in its wake. Senior citizens and adults with chronic conditions are most vulnerable given their lower immunity levels. In India, over 25% of adult deaths are caused by vaccine preventable diseases*. Although vaccines are both a cheap and effective means to prevent transfer of infectious disease, their use is severely restricted owing to a lack of awareness.

Vaccines for adults

Vaccines are recommended for adults on the basis of age, prior vaccinations, health conditions, lifestyle, occupation and travel. Adults need more protection than children from these diseases:

Pneumonia

An inflammation of the lungs usually caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi or other organisms. A study conducted by Indian Chest Society has shown that about 600-700 people age 60 and above die of the infection. And of these 20-40% are caused from streptococcus. Prevention: Adults 65 years or older and people with underlying medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes or heart disease) are most at risk. A single dose of pneumococcal vaccine is recommended, but there are some exceptions. (See box) Side-effects: Very few people report fever, muscle pain or serious swelling and pain on the arm.

Influenza

Transmitted via respiratory tract fluids, influenza (popularly known as the flu virus) is a highly infectious disease that affects all age groups. Healthy adults can get very sick from the flu but rates of serious illness, complications and death are highest among persons aged 65 years or older and in persons with chronic cardiac and respiratory conditions. Prevention: A flu shot is recommended for everyone aged six months and above. It has to be taken every year as the virus is constantly evolving. Take the shot between September and mid-November, before flu season, to ensure your body’s defences are adequately prepared. Side-effects: A few people experience headache or low-grade fever a a day after vaccination. For people aged 60 years or above, tetanus and shingles (known as herpes zoster in India) vaccine are recommended since the risk of infection increases with age. 

How effective are vaccines?

A vaccine is essentially a weak strain of the disease-causing organism that is injected into the body to encourage it to produce antibodies and boost the immune system. Its effectiveness has been proven over decades – infant immunisations have been responsible for eradicating deadly diseases like small pox and drastically reducing the incidence of cholera and polio. Although cases of ineffective vaccination are not unheard of, the benefits are immense when you consider that every year when seasons change, city hospital ICUs are filled with patients suffering from diseases affecting lung/immunity system. So plan ahead and give some serious thought to immunisation. Be sure to have a detailed discussion with a doctor before proceeding with the shots, however. *Adult immunisation in India: Importance and recommendations published by NCBI in Sept 2015 Adult vaccinations are only available by prescription. To speak to a doctor, download the Doctor 24x7 mobile app. The first consult is free—call now![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Why I recommend adult vaccination

Adult vaccination is a relatively new concept in preventive management but it is slowly gaining ground among patients as well as doctors. Elderly people aged 65 and above are prone to pneumonia as are patients suffering from chronic illnesses such as lung disease (bronchial asthma), heart disease, kidney disease, liver disease, diabetes, cancer, etc. Even as efforts are made to treat and control their chronic illnesses, these patients often land up in ICCU with an infection. Vaccines can protect people when they are vulnerable. Two of the most popular vaccines that are proving their worth are:
  • Pneumococcal vaccine – one dose is recommended for people aged 65 and above. For those under 65, one or two booster shots are recommended at five years interval.
  • Influenza or Flu vaccine – one shot every year.
While the pneumococcal vaccine is available throughout the year, the flu vaccine becomes available every year around September-October. The vaccine lasts till May-June next year. The approximate cost for pneumococcal vaccine is Rs 1,400 while influenza vaccine costs between Rs 850-900. -Dr Sachindra Rao, MBBS and Doctor 24x7 expert
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