Last week the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) published its annual report on adult vaccination rates in the US.
Vaccination coverage levels among adults are low. Improvement in adult vaccination is needed to reduce the health consequences of vaccine-preventable diseases among adults and to prevent pertussis [whooping cough] morbidity and mortality in infants, who need the protection afforded by the Tdap vaccination.
Besides yearly flu shots, other vaccinations adults should consider are:
- Td/Tdap (tetanus, diptheria, pertussis “whooping cough”)
- Varicella (chickenpox)
- HPV (human papilloma virus)
- MMR (measles, mumps, rubella)
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis B
- Herpes Zoster (shingles)
- Pneumococcal (pneumonia)
For more information, click on the quiz image above. This will take you to the CDC’s website, where you can enter your age, gender and more information to get a list of recommended immunizations. Most immunizations are readily available at pharmacies, but talk to your primary care provider if you want more information.
Why get vaccinated?
There are two reasons to get vaccinated:
- Prevent illness in yourself
- Prevent spreading illness to others—what’s called “herd immunity”
There has been an increased incidence of pertussis or whooping cough outbreaks across the US in the last few years. It is highly contagious, and is especially dangerous to children under 12 months of age because their immunity is not yet fully developed (assuming they are getting the vaccinations as scheduled).
Measles is another highly-contagious but preventable disease that was thought to be mostly defeated, but poor immunization rates in certain parts of the country (my state, Washington, is one of the worse!) have resulted in a number of outbreaks since 2011.
Related story: NY Mall Warning: Shoppers Possibly Exposed to Measles
As for protecting yourself, I highly recommend the shingles vaccine if you are over 60. As a nurse, I’ve spent a lot of time working with elderly populations. Shingles is common and it’s bad. I’ve sat in on afternoon teas at assisted living facilities where the conversation revolves around who has shingles, who had shingles, and who had the worse case of shingles.
Very rarely a shingles infection can lead to pneumonia, hearing problems, blindness, brain inflammation (encephalitis) or death. More commonly, patients develop postherpetic neuralgia (PHN) in the area where the rash was. The overall incidence of PHN is 20%; after the age of 60 this rises to 40%, and after age 70 it rises to 50%. It can be excruciatingly painful, resistant to treatment, and can last for years or even a lifetime.
Do what you can to avoid shingles. Get the vaccine.
Most vaccines are covered by Obamacare
I’m not a huge fan of Obamacare, but I do think covering vaccinations for children and adults is money well spent—an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
All Obamacare-compliant health plans must offer recommended adult vaccinations without cost-sharing, that is no co-pay or deductible.
Check with your insurance company or pharmacist about the cost of specific vaccinations. For example, the shingles and pneumococcal vaccines are recommended for those aged 60 and above; if you are under 60, the vaccine will probably not be covered.
For Medicare patients, it’s more complicated. The flu shot, the pneumococcal vaccine and Hepatitis B (for certain at-risk patients) are covered by Medicare part B with no cost sharing. Other vaccinations, such as shingles, are usually covered by part D but may include a co-pay. Check with your Medicare part D plan for more information. Cost sharing for the shingles vaccine may be expensive, so definitely try to get that one done before age 65 (and after 60)!