Vaccinations Are For Adults, Too | American Lung Association

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Vaccinations Are For Adults, Too

(August 18, 2015)

Think adults don't need vaccinations? Guess again. Many healthy adults age 50 and older think they no longer require immunizations—as a result, a significant number are not current on vaccinations that can help protect their health and prevent serious illnesses.1 August is National Immunization Awareness Month and the American Lung Association, in partnership with Pfizer, is working to help dispel the myth that vaccines are just for children.

The risk of contracting potentially life-threatening respiratory infections, such as influenza and pneumococcal pneumonia, increases as you age and your immune system naturally weakens.2 Additionally, adults with chronic conditions such as asthma and COPD are at even greater risk, as are adults who smoke.3,4

Approximately 40,000 to 50,000 adults in the U.S. die from vaccine-preventable infectious diseases or their complications each year.5 More than just a bad cold, seasonal flu and pneumonia are serious lung diseases. Pneumococcal pneumonia, specifically, has been estimated to hospitalize a quarter of a million Americans 50 and older,6 with an average hospital stay five days.7

"When recommending vaccination for influenza and pneumococcal disease, I tell my patients with already compromised lungs from smoking or chronic lung diseases like asthma and COPD that they may have difficultly handling pulmonary infections."4,8 says Albert Rizzo, M.D., Senior Medical Advisor to the American Lung Association. In these cases the infections can often result in hospitalizations, longer recovery time and at times, even death.4

These serious illnesses are potentially preventable with vaccines:

Pneumococcal Pneumonia is a serious lung disease that is often spread through coughing or sneezing, and sometimes those who don't exhibit symptoms can also spread bacteria. Common symptoms of pneumococcal pneumonia include fever, chills, productive (mucus) cough that persists or gets worse, difficulty in breathing and chest pain.10

Influenza, commonly known as the flu, is a serious respiratory illness that impacts people of all ages.11 It is a highly contagious virus that is usually spread through coughing or sneezing.11 Symptoms can impact the entire body and may include sudden onset of high fever, headache, muscle aches, a dry cough, sore throat and nasal congestion.11 There are numerous strains of this virus that make annual vaccination important to ensure adequate protection.11

Ask Your Healthcare Provider

Ask your healthcare provider to review your status and see if you are up to date on all your vaccinations, including for pneumococcal pneumonia and influenza. Vaccination may be recommended depending on your age and/or risk factors.

Hygiene Helps

Maintaining good hygiene - including regular handwashing - is also important in helping to prevent pneumococcal pneumonia, influenza and other infectious illnesses.12

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. MMWR. Adult Vaccination Coverage — United States, 2011, Updated February 1, 2013. Retrieved May 11, 2015.
  2. Weinberger B, Herndler-Brandstetter D, Schwanninger A, Weiskopf D, Grubeck-Loebenstein B. Biology of immune responses to vaccines in elderly persons. Clin Infect Dis. 2008;46(7):1078-1084. doi:10.1086/529197.
  3. Musher DM. Streptococcus pneumoniae. In: Mandell GL, Bennett JE, Dolin R, eds. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. Vol 2. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier; 2010:2623-2642.
  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. People at high risk of developing flu-related complications. Updated November 7, 2013. Accessed December 11, 2013.
  5. Trust for America's Health, Infectious Diseases Society of America, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Adult Immunization: Shots to Save Lives. Washington, DC: Trust for America's Health; February 2010.
  6. Data on file.
  7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Fast stats: pneumonia. Accessed November 5, 2013.
  8. National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. What is Pneumonia? Published March 1, 2011. Accessed July 21, 2015.
  9. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Risk factors & transmission. Updated June 6, 2013. Accessed May 11, 2015.
  10. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Pneumococcal Disease. Symptoms & Complications. Accessed December 4, 2013
  11. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Key Facts About Influenza (Flu) & Flu Vaccine. Accessed January 23, 2013.
  12. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Show Me the Science – Why Wash Your Hands? Updated October 17, 2014. Accessed July 17, 2015.
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