Adults Need Vaccinations, Too!

Article Categories: Diseases and Conditions & Patient Education

As an RN, your family and friends may have asked you about the recent news regarding measles outbreaks and the need for all children to receive protection against serious diseases. No doubt you told them about the dangers and complications of contracting childhood diseases, as well as the obligation to keep the entire community safe, by simply following a routine vaccination schedule.

But did you know that adults need vaccinations, too? “Vaccination is as important for adults as it is for children, and yet many adults are not optimally vaccinated,” says William Schaffner, MD, President of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases.

Today, with easy global travel, a bacteria or virus can still spread disease within a few hours. Adults of all ages should check with their providers and make sure all vaccinations are current. Some childhood vaccinations give lifelong immunity; others require boosters in adulthood. Several vaccinations are only given to older adults.

Here are eight situations when adults should be vaccinated:

1. Vaccinations help keep everyone safe--especially babies and immune-compromised people. Before infants are able to be vaccinated, they are extremely vulnerable. Some children--and adults--are not able to tolerate vaccines, and depend on the community to help them stay healthy. “We call that creating a cocoon of protection...” Schaffner says.

2. Not all vaccines provide life-long protection. Some vaccines, such as tetanus, require boosters every ten years. Depending on the birth year, several vaccines, including mumps, may have been ineffective when given, and need to be re-administered.

3. Vaccinations records may be incomplete. People born before 1957 are considered to be immune to measles and mumps. Otherwise, people without a complete documented vaccination record, or laboratory proof of immunity, may need to undergo a complete schedule, especially if they have medical conditions.

4. Some vaccines are only for adults. For people who have had chicken pox, a one-time zoster vaccination is recommended after age 60. After age 65, all adults should complete the pneumococcal series.

5. Working in healthcare or around children carries extra risk. People in these settings can expose others, as well as be exposed to a variety of vaccine-protected diseases. Without a documented vaccination record, workers may need to receive necessary vaccinations, including the Hepatitis B series.

6. Everyone should get a flu shot, every year. The CDC recommends that after the age of 6 months, all people should get an annual flu shot. Not only does it build antibodies against the anticipated worst 3-4 strains of influenza during the coming year, it protects infants and those who aren’t medically able to receive the injection.

7. Adults with chronic diseases need additional protection. People with heart disease, COPD, kidney disease, diabetes, or HIV can have severe complications from flu or pneumonia. Providers may decide to administer vaccinations, such as pneumococcal, earlier in adulthood.

8. Travelers need special protection. Anyone who travels internationally should check to see if additional vaccinations are recommended for the destination. The CDC website maintains a list for each country. For people who travel often, Hepatitis A is advised to protect against contaminated food and water. Some countries require polio vaccinations, as well as specific vaccines for local diseases.

Of course, every RN isn’t expected to know all the requirements and indications for every vaccination. But when you’re aware that adults need to continue immunizations throughout their lives, you can point people in the right direction.