Kid stuff – Adult Immunizations
Kid stuff! As adults, we all remember things from our youth that have been left behind: bed time stories read by Mom, Santa wonderment, tooth fairy payments, Friday night curfews, teen acne. Some of these things we remember fondly and miss, and others we are happy to have outgrown. While our early years include a variety of immunizations, we never “outgrow” the need for vaccinations. The Center for Disease Control recommends several routine immunizations continuing through adult years.
Tetanus is a bacterial infection, typically occurring from a laceration or puncture injury. The infection causes nerve inflammation can progress to difficulty with breathing and death. There is no cure for tetanus, but the vaccination is extremely effective in preventing tetanus infection, and is given every 10 years, or sooner if a laceration occurs. Diphtheria and pertussis (whooping cough) are respiratory illnesses whose vaccines are generally included with tetanus vaccinations. Whooping cough is particularly serious for infants, who are not immunized in their first year of life. Family members and friends can safeguard the baby by updating their Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, and attenuated pertussis) vaccination prior to the arrival of the new baby.
Influenza is a contagious viral respiratory illness associated with fever, chills, cough, and fatigue that tends to occur in winter months and can be serious for older adults, young children, and people with underlying health issues. The influenza virus mutates from year to year, so having had influenza does not provide immunity from future outbreaks. Updated vaccinations are recommended every fall with the re-formulated vaccine.
As we age, we become more vulnerable to the many kinds of pneumonia that can occur. At age 65, most people are advised to get a Pneumovax vaccination, which protects against 23 types of pneumonia. Some individuals with other health issues may also be candidates for Prevnar, another vaccination that protects against an additional 13 strains of pneumonia. Both of these vaccinations may be offered at earlier ages in some circumstances.
Many adults had chicken pox in childhood, and the virus lives on forever in their bodies. If the virus becomes re-activated, a shingles outbreak may occur. Typically, a nerve becomes inflamed, causing burning pain, and progressing to a blistery rash occurring in one limited area of nerve path. While you can only get chicken pox once, having shingles does not confer any immunity—you can get it over again. If you are lucky, it only lasts for 3-6 weeks, but can also drag out for 6-12 months. While you are unlikely to die of shingles, people who’ve experienced it are often miserable. Shingrix is the 2 shot shingles vaccination series that most private insurance covers well starting at age 50. Medicare doesn’t cover it as well, so getting the series prior to age 65 is cheaper for most people.
New to the list of recommended adult immunizations is Covid immunization. At this time there are 3 vaccinations available: a 2-shot series for Moderna and Pfizer, and one injection for Johnson and Johnson. While these are newer recommendations, the vast majority of immunizations have been associated with relatively mild side effects. At this time, 98-99% of Covid related hospitalizations and deaths are occurring in non-immunized individuals.
While the Fountain of Youth has so far evaded detection, ongoing efforts at routine health maintenance continues to be the best strategy for staying healthy and youthful. We may not be able to bring back the glory days of our youth, but we certainly can protect what we have with all of our might. Keeping up to date with immunizations not only safeguards our health, but also increases the likelihood that we can stay active and engaged in life—like sharing bedtime stories with young family members, commiserating with teenage angst, and celebrating life events. Kid stuff—some things we never outgrow.
To schedule an appointment with a Sidney Health Center Primary Care physician or advanced practice provider, call the clinic receptionist at 406-488-2510 or visit the Sidney Health Center website at sidneyhealth.org for a complete listing of services offered across the continuum of care.