Vaccinations aren’t just for children | SteamboatToday.com

Vaccinations aren’t just for children

Vaccines, such as this one, which protects people from tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis, are often overlooked by adults, but should be maintained as people grow older. Other vaccines can protect older adults from measles, mumps and rubella, as well as meningococcal disease, hepatitis and shingles.

— For most adults, vaccinations are just a part of growing up in the modern world. But the truth is, vaccines are not only for children.

"Adults need vaccines too," said Mindy Hayden, public health nurse for Northwest Colorado Health. "There are many recommendations based on age, health status, lifestyle and geographic location. All adults should make sure they are up-to-date on Tdap and MMR to protect themselves and those around them that cannot be vaccinated, such as infants and immunocompromised. The CDC now has an online tool to assist in determining vaccination need for adults and children."

Hayden said people can visit 2.cdc.gov/nip/adultimmsched and use the tool to determine which vaccines they need or ask their doctor.

Common adult vaccinations included Tdap, which protects against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis. Tdap may be given regardless of when the patient last received a tetanus and diphtheria vaccination. After receiving a Tdap, boosters will be needed every 10 years.

Other recommended vaccines might included pneumococcal disease; MMR, or measles, mumps and rubella; meningococcal disease; hepatitis A and B; and shingles vaccines. The decision to have these is based on age, lifestyle, job, health condition and vaccines that may have been administered in the past.

"Tdap should be updated at least every 10 years for most and within five years if you are around infants," Hayden said. "Pneumonia is recommended after the age of 65 and earlier, if you have certain chronic illness. Zostavax (shingles) is recommended at age 60, but many insurances are covering this vaccine as early as age 50. You should consult with your doctor about getting these vaccines."

Those traveling abroad should also be aware of what they have been vaccinated against and what is recommended for areas they are visiting.

"Vaccination recommendations vary with each country and even the areas within those countries. I recommend receiving a travel consultation at least one month prior to departure, as some vaccines take up to 28 days to complete, but it's never too late," Hayden said.

Northwest Colorado Health provides travel consultations, and those planning to leave the country are advised to call 970-879-1632. Yellow fever vaccine is in very short supply and is required for entry into some countries. Those who plan to travel out of the country and need a yellow fever vaccination are advised to call as soon as possible to check availability, Hayden said.

Recent reminder

A recent outbreak of hepatitis A is a reminder of how important vaccinations can be. Since January, there have been 26 cases of hepatitis A in Colorado, and the outbreak is spread across nine counties, with most occurring on the Front Range. That's more cases than Colorado typically sees in an entire year.

Hayden said hepatitis A is an acute viral infection that affects the liver. People are at higher risk include men who have had sexual contact with other men, people who have had sexual contact with an infected person, people who inject drugs and people with chronic liver disease.

Symptoms, which normally appear two to six weeks after exposure, can range from mild to severe enough to require hospitalization. The infected person can feel sick for several months before fully recovering. There is no special treatment, only rest, proper nutrition and fluids. Hepatitis A does not cause long-term liver damage and will resolve.

Hepatitis A can be transmitted person-to-person when someone carrying the virus does not wash their hands properly after using the restroom, then touches objects or prepares food. It can also be passed through contaminated water or sexual contact.

"Hepatitis A vaccine became available in 1995, but was not routinely recommended for all children until later," Hayden said. "No one should assume they have been vaccinated based on their age. If you are unsure or cannot find proof of immunization, I recommend getting vaccinated. It does not hurt to get vaccinated again, even if you received it in the past. I think it's better to know you’re protected than to take the risk of getting the illness."

The vaccine for hepatitis A is a two-dose series, with doses administered six months apart. No booster doses are recommended, Hayden said.

She added there are a number of vaccinations that can help adults avoid illness — including life-threatening illness — and many are available to adults.

"There are now two types of pneumonia shots recommended after age 65," Hayden said. "HPV (human papillomavirus) is available until the age of 26. I highly recommend everyone within this age group receive this cancer preventing vaccine."

Hayden said the staff at Northwest Colorado Health is available to assist in determining vaccination recommendations or finding old vaccination records and to answer questions people might have about vaccinations. It can be reached at 970-879-1632.

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966