AUGUST IS IMMUNIZATION AWARENESS MONTH 💉
August is National Immunization Awareness Month in the USA, and the CDC is the sponsoring agency. Many presume immunizations are for children only, however, there are some immunizations for adults as well. These include new ones depending on age and where one lives, or a booster shot for prior immunization(s) since some of them have waning effectiveness with time. Vaccines help prevent or reduce serious diseases caused by bacteria and viruses. Vaccinations needed by adults may include the following depending on which country one lives in.
1. Influenza Vaccine: This is formulated every year with different strains of the influenza virus and so a shot is needed every year. Influenza leads to the death of about 36,000 people in the US with over 500,000 hospitalizations every year according to the CDC. It is recommended to get the flu shot around the end of October.
2. Pneumonia Vaccines: Pneumonia and other diseases may be caused by bacteria called Pneumococci bacteria. There are 2 types of Pneumococcal Vaccines which contain many strains of Pneumococci. CDC recommends getting one or both shots depending on age, underlying medical conditions e.g. cancer, heart disease, sickle cell disease or cigarette smokers.
3. Tetanus/Diphtheria/Pertussis: One booster dose with each pregnancy or every 10 years is required, or if one gets a wound from an injury. These protect against three diseases. One can be given Td or Tdap. Grandparents or husbands who will be around newborns are encouraged to get these booster vaccines which protect against Tetanus, Diphtheria and Whooping Cough – all serious bacteria infections.
4. Shingles Vaccine: Shingles is a condition which may appear as blisters on the skin after an initial feeling of numbness or pain. After it clears some people may be left with chronic pain we call “neuralgia”. It can be very devastating and it is caused by reactivation of the chicken pox virus called varicella zoster in one’s nerves. The vaccine is available for those aged 50 years and above and it is called “Shingrix”. The previous vaccine used is called Zostavax.
5. Covid Vaccine: This vaccine is to lower the risk for COVID-19 infection and there are several of them available now. It is important that one gets vaccinated with which ever vaccine is available in their country. There have been many theories and rumors about the vaccines’ safety and effectiveness by people including healthcare workers. Research shows they are effective and currently prevent or decrease severity of disease, use of oxygen and hospitalization in Intensive Care. As a physician, I am saddened by the false information circulating because I have seen first hand people who refused to get vaccinated and have gotten serious Covid or even died. I encourage people to read the research done by reputable medical organizations and not just depend on posts put on social media. There are religious leaders and pastors who have tremendous influence over their congregations and have discouraged vaccinations, which have unfortunately resulted in their deaths or that of members of their congregation.
6. Hepatitis A and B vaccines: Hepatitis A, B, and C are the three most common infections causes by a group of viruses called hepatitis viruses. Hepatitis B and C can cause serious chronic liver damage leading to fibrosis, cirrhosis and liver cancer. There are vaccines for A and B but not for C yet. It is important to get vaccinated against A and B and more so, if one has been infected with the Hepatitis C virus.
7. Human Papilloma Virus Vaccine: The HPV group of viruses can cause genital diseases and also cervical cancer, one of the commonest cancers killing women in low resource countries. The vaccines are available for males aged 9–26 years and females aged 9–45 years. They protect against a group of high risk HPV viruses causing Pre-cancer and Cervical cancer.
In conclusion, I encourage you to get these vaccines if you have access to them. Vaccines have been saving lives for many years, and so prevent diseases by getting the vaccines appropriate for your age.
Dr. Barbara Entsuah MD, MHSc (Family Physician, Philanthropist and Author)