Adults encouraged to get immunized

COVINGTON -- You're never too old to get immunized. That's the message the Gwinnett, Newton and Rockdale County Health Departments are hoping to spread during National Adult Immunization Awareness Week, which runs through Saturday.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adults remain largely unvaccinated against preventable infectious illnesses. A survey from the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases indicates doctor and patient communication challenges may be part of the problem. The survey shows that one in five adults believes vaccines are optional for healthy adults and 19 percent of those surveyed believe vaccination is generally not recommended for adults except for influenza or travel-related vaccines.

"By not getting vaccinated as recommended, adults are leaving themselves needlessly vulnerable to illness and potentially spreading vaccine preventable diseases such as (whooping cough) to their friends, family and colleagues," said Lloyd Hofer, district health director for Gwinnett, Newton and Rockdale counties.

Connie Russell, district program director for GRN health departments, said getting vaccinated is important to protect not only yourself but also your loved ones.

"There's a health risk to themselves (for those who don't get vaccinated) and they need to also consider the health risk to children in their lives as well. For example, with pertussis, or whooping cough, children can't be vaccinated until they are 6 months of age. Anyone they come in contact with, even casually, like in a store setting, could infect an infant and that is potentially fatal," Russell said.

The website www.immunization.org includes the following guidelines for adults to follow related to immunizations:

Influenza -- From age 19 on, take a dose every fall or winter for self-protection and the protection of others around you.

Pneumococcal -- Take one to two doses if you're a smoker or have certain chronic medical conditions. You need one dose at age 65 if you've never been vaccinated.

Tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough) -- Get a one-time dose of Tdap vaccine if you are younger than age 65 and if you are 65 or older and have contact with an infant, are a health-care worker or simply want to be protected from whooping cough. A Td booster is needed every 10 years. Consult with your health-care provider if you haven't had at least three tetanus and diphtheria containing shots some time in your life or have a deep or dirty wound.

Hepatitis B -- Take this vaccine if you have a specific risk factor or wish to be protected. The vaccine is given in three doses over six months.

Hepatitis A -- Take this vaccine if you have a specific risk factor or want to be protected. The vaccine is given in two doses six to 18 months apart.

Human papillomavirus -- Get vaccinated if you are age 26 or younger and female. One brand, Gardasil, can be given to men age 26 or younger. The vaccine is given in three doses over six months.

Measles, mumps, rubella -- You need at least one dose of MMR if you were born in 1957 or later. A second dose may also be needed.

Varicella (chicken pox) -- If you've never had chickenpox or were vaccinated but received only one dose, talk to a health-care provider to find out if you need this vaccine.

Meningococcal -- If you are going to college and plan to live in a dormitory or have one of several medical conditions, you need to get vaccinated and may need additional booster doses.

Shingles -- Get vaccinated if you are age 60 or older.

International travelers may need additional vaccines. The CDC provides information to assist travelers with determining which vaccines, medications and other measures are necessary to prevent illness. Visit www.cdc.gov/travel or call 1-800-232-4636 for more information.

All decisions regarding vaccines should be made in consultation with a qualified health-care provider.