A Reminder: Adults Also Need to get Vaccinated

August is National Immunization Awareness Month, a time when many parents of school-aged children get their children vaccinated. While most schools require students to get certain vaccinations, many adults need to be reminded of the importance of getting vaccinated.

“Unfortunately, many recommended vaccinations are commonly neglected by adults,” said Dr. Daren Wu, Chief Medical Officer at Open Door Family Medical Center. “This neglect not only drives a lot of medical complications that could have been prevented, but also contributes to unnecessary deaths (particularly in the case of flu and pneumonia), as well as high costs related to medical care.”

Dr. Wu answers these common questions about vaccinations:

1. What annual immunizations are recommended (and why)?

A flu shot is the only annual immunization recommendation for adults, ideally between the months of September and January. While people often do not think too much about flu, it is responsible for 20,000 – 50,000 deaths every year in this country. Flu shots are very helpful in not only reducing the chance of getting the flu, but also blunting its severity.

2. What other immunizations do you recommend (and for adults at what age or with what conditions)?

Aside from an annual flu shot, it is highly recommended that all adults get vaccinated against pneumonia. All adults over age 65 should receive a one-time PCV15 or PCV20 vaccine (these are two different types of pneumonia vaccines) if they have never had a pneumonia vaccination before. Additionally, many older or immunocompromised adults who have been previously vaccinated should consider an additional one-time vaccination with one of the newer pneumonia vaccines, based on their risk factors. Another important vaccination is against shingles (herpes zoster). Shingles is a very common and often very painful rash, which occurs as a reactivation of previous chickenpox (varicella) infection. The highly effective 2-dose vaccination reduces the chance of developing shingles, and is recommended for all adults over age 50, as well as younger adults who are immunocompromised. Lastly, every adult should get a Tdap shot every 10 years. This protects against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis.

3. Are there certain conditions or allergies that may prevent people from getting specific vaccinations (and alternatives)?

There are minimal risks that unfortunately get overemphasized all the time, but the reality is that all our currently recommended vaccinations are extremely unlikely to cause any harm, including allergic reactions. Certainly, individuals should review with their healthcare team any reactions and allergies that they have had in the past, related to vaccinations or otherwise, but the fact is that these vaccinations are all very safe for the vast majority of individuals.

5. Why do you think people tend not to be compliant when it comes to getting vaccinated?

Knowledge barrier, access barrier, fear of healthcare, or fear of shots are all common reasons. Hearing or reading about myths and falsehoods related to vaccinations are an ongoing frustration for medical providers. These inaccurate claims, frequently encountered on the internet, on podcasts, or on social media, are not only false, but also contribute to unnecessary illness, death, and higher costs related to preventable medical complications.

6. Are Covid boosters still recommended?

People who are at higher risks (immunocompromised, or have chronic conditions, or are 65 years of age or older) are advised to get another bivalent COVID booster even if they previously had received one, as long as it has been at least four months since their last shot. A new booster will be coming out in the next few months, and it is expected that there will be an annual vaccination recommendation to protect against COVID.

7. Are parents generally more knowledgeable about getting shots for their children than for themselves?

Yes, I believe they are, and I imagine that’s because adults are more mindful about the needs of their children than they are for themselves.

8. Anecdotally, have you had patients who neglected a vaccine only to change their ways after suffering the consequences?

Yes, absolutely. Many individuals who have had horrible experiences with the flu often are more open to getting flu shots in the future. More recently, I have seen the same 180-degree change in individuals who declined COVID vaccinations, and then had COVID infections, and came in asking for COVID shots to prevent recurrence.

9. Are there new vaccines available that patients need to know about (and which you recommend)?

There now are two recently approved vaccinations against RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus) for adults. Neither vaccine is currently available, but is expected to be ready for use by this fall. RSV is a pretty common illness and tends to flare in the colder, winter months. Most people recover just fine, with only mild cold-like symptoms, but this illness can be deadly for very young kids and older adults. In fact, the CDC estimates that 6,000 – 10,000 American adults die every year from RSV. Now, there are two vaccines available and older adults (over 60) and those with clinical conditions or problems with immunity should consider discussing this with their healthcare providers.

About Open Door Family Medical Center and Foundation

For over 50 years, Open Door has provided accessible, high-quality health care and wellness services, regardless of a patient’s ability to pay. Open Door offers family medicine, dental services, behavioral health care, women’s health including obstetrics, vision services, insurance enrollment assistance, and much more. Open Door operates health centers in Ossining, Brewster, Mamaroneck, Mount Kisco, Sleepy Hollow, and Port Chester, and a dental site in Saugerties. Additionally, Open Door runs a mobile dental van and nine School-Based Health Centers in the Ossining, Port Chester, and Webutuck school districts.

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