by Janice Kopelman
For New Pittsburgh Courier
As children, most of us stayed current on vaccinations under the watchful eye of our parents and pediatricians. As we grew, our parents and doctors made sure we were protected from any vaccine-preventable diseases surrounding us.
But as adults, we may put our own health needs on the backburner because we’re so busy making sure that our families and our jobs are in order. Perhaps it’s because we have the misconception that we just don’t need vaccinations.
Perhaps it’s because we assume that vaccines received as children will protect us for the rest of our lives. Generally this is true, but immunity can fade over time, making us more susceptible to serious disease caused by common infections. Even those who were vaccinated during childhood may not have received all of the necessary vaccines due to when the vaccine became available. There are also some adults who were never vaccinated as children.
For any number of reasons, adults need vaccine education.
Millions of Americans fall ill every year with vaccine-preventable illnesses. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 50,000 people die yearly nationwide from diseases that may have been prevented with a simple vaccination. In order to educate Pennsylvanians, over the age of 18, about the importance of keeping their vaccinations current, the state Department of Health recently launched the “Immunizations across the Lifespan” public awareness campaign to spread the word that vaccines aren’t just for children. Vaccines can prevent adults from diseases such as:
Influenza—A contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses.
Pneumococcal Disease—There are different types of pneumococcal disease, such as pneumococcal pneumonia and meningitis.
Tetanus—A disease of the nervous system (lockjaw) caused by bacteria.
Diphtheria—A respiratory disease caused by bacteria that can cause airway obstruction, coma and death if not treated.
Pertussis—A highly contagious bacterial disease that causes uncontrollable, violent coughing. Also known as Whooping Cough.
Vaccine recommendations for adults are based on a variety of factors including age, overall health status and medical history.
(Janice Kopelman is deputy secretary for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Pennsylvania Department of Health.)