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National Adult Immunization Awareness Week, Sept 26–Oct 2 by Monica Calvin PharmD Candidate

September 1, 2004

Many people think “shots” or immunizations are just for kids. If you’re a healthy adult, you may not think about immunizations. One of the most effective ways to stay healthy is getting the recommended adult immunizations. Some adults assume that the vaccines they received as children will protect them for the rest of their lives. Generally this is true, except:

• Some adults were never vaccinated as children
• Newer vaccines were not available when some
adults were children
• Immunity can begin to fade over time
• As we age, we become more susceptible to
serious disease caused by common infections
(e.g., flu, pneumococcus)

Influenza is a contagious disease that affects approximately 10% of the population and kills an average of 36,000 people annually in the United States. Annual vaccination during October and November is the primary method for preventing influenza.

With the approach of the influenza season, many individuals will begin to think about getting their annual “flu” shot. Healthcare workers should be vaccinated against influenza annually. According to the CDC, less than 40% of healthcare workers are vaccinated annually against influenza. Maximizing immunization rates will protect healthcare workers, their patients and the community. People who can transmit the influenza virus to individuals at high risk for complications are those who are clinically or subclinically infected. Two studies indicate that vaccination of healthcare personnel is associated with decreased deaths among nursing home patients.1-2

The CDC recommends that anyone 6 months of age and older at risk for getting a serious case of influenza complications and people in close contact with them should get the vaccine.2-3

• An annual flu shot is recommended for:
• All children 6 months–23 months of age
• People 50 years of age and over
• Women who will be pregnant during influenza
• Residents of long-term care facilities with
chronic medical conditions
• People who have long-term health problems with
heart disease, kidney disease, lung disease,
asthma, anemia and other blood disorders
• Healthcare personnel in hospitals, nursing
homes and outpatient-care settings
• Household (including children) in close
contact with people at risk of serious
• Anyone who wants to reduce his or her chance
of catching influenza.

Federal law requires that patients be educated about the risk and benefits of all vaccinations in easy to understand language. Vaccine information statements (VIS) provide a standard way to present objective information about vaccine risks and benefits. Printed materials developed by the U.S. federal government are available for the most commonly used vaccines. VIS forms are available at state and local health departments and can also be downloaded from the CDC website @

If you’re a healthy adult you may not think about immunization, but vaccination helps prevent diseases that affect millions. Don’t forget to update your immunizations.

1. Polan GA, Shefer AM, McCauley, et al. Standard for Adult Immunization Practices. AMJ Prev Med 2003;25(2):144-154.
2. Harper SA, Fukuda K, Uyeki TM, et al. Prevention and Control of Influenza. Mor Mortal Wkly Rep Recommendation & Reports 2005:53(RR06):1-40.
3. CDC. Inactivated Influenza Vaccine 2004-2005. Vaccine Information Statement Inactivate Influenza Vaccine 05/24/04.
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