“Could have, should have and did” – if each one of us could say that about getting immunizations, numerous lives could be saved and hospital visits avoided. Every year, vaccine-preventable diseases affect millions of people worldwide. Pneumonia alone puts about 1 million Americans in the hospital each year, and 50,000 die from the disease.
Pneumonia, a lung infection, is one of the serious complications that can be triggered by the flu, possibly requiring hospitalization and sometimes resulting in death.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the flu and pneumonia together rank as the fifth leading cause of death for American adults ages 65 or older. Both diseases can be spread by coughing, sneezing, or simply breathing. Both can be prevented by getting vaccinated.
Staying on guard
“Many adults, vaccinated when they were younger, mistakenly assume they are shielded from disease for life. In reality, immunity can weaken with age. In fact, individuals who are in their 50s and 60s and those who have weakened immune systems are more at risk of contracting vaccine-preventable diseases. Some adults are missing certain newer vaccines that weren’t available when they were growing up,” cautions Donyale Harris, M.D., a board-certified Family Medicine physician at Kelsey-Seybold who cares for patients at the Fort Bend Medical and Diagnostic Center in Sugar Land.
Shots aren’t just for children – they’re for families. It’s important to stay current on immunizations to keep everyone healthy.
Finding your target
“To combat the risk of contracting diseases, aim for prevention before treatment. This means staying up to date on immunizations,” Dr. Harris said.
- Influenza shot every year – ideally, before the start of the flu season. Each year, 5 to 20 percent of Americans suffer from the flu. “The flu is hitting Houston hard this year. It’s not too late to get a flu shot,” Dr. Harris pointed out. “While news reports point out the flu vaccine isn’t as effective this year, it is still the most effective way to protect yourself from the flu and its complications.”
- One initial dose of the tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis (Tdap) vaccine followed by a tetanus (Td) booster shot every 10 years from then on. The Tdap should be prioritized for adults who have never received it and those in contact with infants under the age of 1.
- Pneumonia vaccine for those most at risk (anyone age 65 or older, individuals with chronic illnesses, and smokers). Two pneumococcal vaccines are recommended for all adults 65years or older. You should receive a dose of PCV13 first, followed by a dose of PPSV23, at least 1 year later.
- Two doses of the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine for individuals born after 1957 – severe mumps complications are more common in adults than children.
- Varicella vaccine for adults who have never had chickenpox, as they are more likely than children to develop serious complications when infected with the virus.
- Human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine for women and men under age 26 to help reduce the risk of contracting several cancers, not just tumors of their reproductive systems.
Taking the shot
“Immunizations help keep you healthy by preventing diseases before they happen. When you take care of yourself, you are taking care of others, too,” says Dr. Harris, who cares for adults and children as a primary care physician. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Harris, call 713-442-0000.