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Common myths about adult immunisation busted!

Different types of vaccines are recommended for adults based on their age, health conditions, lifestyle, occupation, prior vaccinations and travel, shares Dr Belliappa, Center Head, RXDX

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Most of us think that immunisation and vaccines are only for small children. However, vaccinations are recommended throughout life to prevent diseases and their sequel. Vaccines for adults are also important given that more than 25 per cent of mortality is due to infectious diseases. According to WHO, global vaccination coverage is still 85 per cent with no significant increase from past few years. However, if this coverage improves, an additional 1.5 million deaths can be avoided. Different types of vaccines are recommended for adults based on their age, health conditions, lifestyle, occupation, prior vaccinations and travel.

Here, we have busted some common myths regarding adult immunisation:

Myth: Vaccines are for children and adults don’t need any vaccine.
Fact: The CDC (Centers for Disease and Prevention) has recommended immunisation schedule for adults depending on their age and health conditions. All adults should talk to their doctor about the potential risks of various diseases which can be prevented by taking vaccines.

Myth: Vaccine is for very old people.
Fact: Infections like pneumonia, hepatitis B and typhoid can happen at any age and can be life-threatening. By getting vaccinated, you can protect yourself and your family from these deadly diseases and unnecessary suffering.

Myth: Healthy adults don’t need vaccines.
Fact: A person who is healthy and active may feel that they do not have a risk of vaccine-preventable diseases because they take good care of themselves. However, our immune system continuously weakens as we age and at the age of 65 or more, adults are at eight times higher risk for being hospitalised due to infections like pneumococcal pneumonia in comparison to adults who are younger than 50.

Myth: Vaccines are not effective in adults.
Fact: According to the CDC, vaccination is the safest and most effective way to protect yourself from diseases. Vaccines undergo years of vigorous testing before the FDA gives them license to be used by doctors. Therefore, there is no risk involved in taking vaccines from a doctor at a medical facility.

Myth: If I was vaccinated in childhood, I don’t need any vaccine as an adult.
Fact: You may have got vaccinations done as a child. But some vaccines require a booster dose to give you full protection. Protection may not be life-long for diseases like tetanus or pertussis (whooping cough). Also, you may not have got some of the newer vaccines that are available now. For instance, it is recommended to take the flu vaccine once every year to reduce its risk and complications. The Td (Tetanus and Diphtheria) should be taken once in every 10 years.

Myth: There is no vaccine which is only for adults.
Fact: Some vaccines are recommended only for adults, who are at higher risk for certain diseases like shingles which is caused by reactivation of chicken pox virus. The risk of this disease increases with age. The shingles vaccine is recommended for adults of 50 years or more (currently not available in India). Also, pneumococcal vaccine is recommended for adults of age 65 and above.

Myth: If I am healthy and I am travelling, I don’t need any vaccine.
Fact: You may get infected while travelling to new places, no matter how healthy you are. You should meet your doctor a few weeks before you travel and discuss what vaccines you need before travelling. Health risks are higher in developing countries and rural areas because of differences in sanitary conditions, water sources and immunisation covered. Your risk of getting infected depends on where you are going, the length of stay, your health and your vaccine history. Most travellers may require hepatitis A, typhoid and measles vaccine. The yellow fever vaccine is needed for travel to parts of Africa and South America.

Myth: Adults only need flu vaccine.
Fact: Adults need many more vaccines than just flu vaccine. The DPT (Diphtheria, Pertussis and Tetanus) vaccine is recommended for women during pregnancy and once for all adults who have not taken previously. Tetanus vaccine is recommended once every 10 years. The HPV vaccine should be taken by women of age 26 years or younger and men of age 21 years or younger. The chicken pox vaccine is recommended for all adults who never had chicken pox or received vaccination in childhood.

The key is to talk to your healthcare provider about adult vaccination and keep yourself fully immunised from various deadly diseases.

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