Importance of Adult Vaccination
Vaccination is an effective procedure to cure many diseases prevalent in the world today hence it is recommended throughout life. Adult vaccination specifically refers to the process of administration of vaccines to peoples who are 19 years and above.
The need for adult vaccination has long been at a low priority as compared to infant vaccination at the government level. As a result, adults that are the economically productive sector of our society are denied full benefits of modern medical inventions that can save a lot of their time and money in treatment and hospitalization which could have been prevented by a simple vaccination.
As the saying goes “Adults don’t have time to get sick”, becomes more relevant in this day and age where simple vaccination can determine how many days we miss our jobs, what quality time we will spend with our family and friends and how safe are we to our communities.
Why Adult Vaccination
As an adult, we are exposed to a far greater number of risks in terms of infectious diseases than compared to infants. This is because every individual has a different lifestyle. Thus, Centre for Disease Control (CDC) recommends vaccination for adults according to our age, jobs, lifestyle, previous health condition, and travel history.
Moreover, the possibilities of immunity from infant vaccination to wear off cannot be ruled out requiring additional booster dose to keep us safe.
Similarly, adults, are at higher risk of specific diseases such as “Shingles” than infants do, making some of these vaccines useful only for the adults.
Finally, many new viruses, bacteria’s and disease-causing agents have evolved and appeared in recent times and so have the vaccines. Therefore, it would not be a wise decision to miss out on opportunities to keep us safe by vaccinating.
Types of Adult Vaccines available
Some vaccines that are recommended by the “Centre of Disease Control” (CDC) for adults who are 19 years or older in the United States of America (USA) are listed below.
Table 1: Vaccines in the Adult Immunization Schedule
Table 2: Recommended Adult Immunization Schedule by age group, United States
Fundamentals of our Immune system
Our body has an intricate mechanism to fight against pathogens (foreign invaders), which is commonly referred to as immunity. In general, there are two types of immunity namely Innate and Adaptive Immunity.
As illustrated in the book “Pathology Illustrated” by Robin Reid et.al. Innate immunity is the first line of defense of our body which is less specific towards the intruders (Bacteria and viruses) thus has a broad effect. It also acts in a very short timeframe as a result it can take action very quickly.
Some example of innate immunity is skin, mucous membranes, white blood cells (leucocytes), defense cells, and some proteins in the blood. On the other hand, adaptive immunity is by default our second line of defense and is activated after innate immunity fails to irradiate the intruders and pathogens. It is activated almost about 4-7 days after the infection and directed towards a particular intruder hence is more specific.
Moreover, it also has a memory so that once it detects a particular pathogen, it remembers its type, and thereby response can be much quicker in the future.
Examples of such immunity are (B and T) lymphocytes, antibodies, and cytokines. Among which antibodies are the basis for immunity caused by the vaccines that can act as an arsenal of weapon to fight against that particular type of intruder.
Vaccines are biological formulations that contain antigens (microbe, its toxins, or its surface protein) that cause the same disease but present in a weakened form.
For example, the “Measles vaccine” contains the same measles viruses but in a weakened or killed form so that it can no longer make us sick but only activate our immune system. It does so by activating our adaptive immunity with the help of B and T lymphocyte cells facilitating our immune system to be directed specifically against a certain antigen.
Additionally, it also has a memory to recognize that type of pathogen in the future with the aid of memory B cells so that our body is well equipped to neutralize the same intruder in the future.
In other words, the vaccine contains the same agent that causes the disease, so that it invokes the adaptive immune response, but in a weaker form which thus cannot cause the disease. And the beauty of it lies in the fact that immunity conferred by vaccines in general, lasts for a long time as is the case with adaptive immunity.
Consequently, the process of administration of vaccines is termed as vaccination.
As a norm, we have subconsciously attuned our conscious mind to associate the terms like vaccines and vaccination to infants, especially newborn children. But the fact that adults can also be prevented from many diseases through vaccination at an appropriate age should not be ignored. Thus tables above illustrate the kind of vaccines, their types (bacterial or viral), trade names under which they are sold and appropriate age groups for vaccine administration. This information can be vital for people to choose their best vaccination options according to their individual circumstances.
Vaccine preventable Diseases
We can prevent various diseases in adults with the simple aid of vaccination. According to Dr. Neopane, some examples of vaccine preventable diseases include influenza (viral illness of respiratory tract causing flu), tetanus (viral disease causing muscle spasms starting from jaw to rest of the body, commonly referred to as “lock-jaw” disease), diphtheria (bacterial infection affecting mucous membrane of nose and throat causing difficulties breathing, heart failure and paralysis), pertussis (commonly called “whooping cough” characterized by uncontrolled and violent coughing), measles (bacterial disease of respiratory tract caused by with symptoms related to common cold), mumps (viral infection characterized by painful swelling of salivary glands), rubella (also known as 3-day measles”, characterized by skin rashes), pneumonia (caused by pneumococcal bacteria causing illness of respiratory tract), meningitis (inflammation of protective layer of brain covering and spinal cord) caused by meningococcal bacteria, shingles (caused by zoster virus characterized by skin rash), varicella (commonly known as chickenpox caused by “varicella zoster” virus leading to infections characterized by skin rashes that eventually forms small itchy blisters), cervical cancer (commonly caused by human papilloma virus infections), and hepatitis (major cause of liver cirrhosis/malfunction/liver cancer).
Hence, as the saying goes “prevention is better than cure”, the simple act of administering the appropriate vaccine at the right age for adults can save us from a lot of future pain in terms of money, time, and energy including medicines and hospitalization later on. Thus we must make our adults aware of the benefits of adult vaccination and thereby build the momentum towards adult vaccination that has not been prevalent in third world countries like that of ours.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention | Recommended Adult Immunization Schedule, United States, 2020
Centre for Disease Control (CDC) (2nd May 2016) Vaccine information for Adults
Dr. Arpana Neopane (2014) Vaccination in Adults, The Kathmandu Post
Ramesh Verma, Pardeep Khanna, and Suraj Chawla (2014) Adult immunization in India: Importance and recommendations, Human vaccines and Immunotherapeutics
Robin Reid, Flona Roberts, and Elaine MacDuff (2011) Pathology Illustrated 7th edition
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2020) Vaccine your best shot at good health