Dr Fahad Merchant, Consulting Physician & Diabetologist, Masina Hospital, talks about the importance of vaccines for adults as with age the immune system begins to deteriorate
So far usually vaccines and immunization in our country are guided for children and infants, although vaccination is equally important for adults too. We need to know that as we age, our immune system begins to deteriorate, decreasing the ability to fight against infectious diseases and the process is called ‘Immunosenescence.’ Also, as some adults suffer from various diseases like chronic lung disease, chronic liver disease, chronic kidney disease, cancers, diabetes, HIV, etc. which suppresses one’s immune mechanisms, making them more vulnerable to a wide spectrum of infections. Some adults smoke excessively, consume excess alcohol or other substances, and some on chemotherapy or radiation therapy or immunosuppressive therapy are more likely to get infections.
WHO experts have shown that vaccines are far safer than other therapeutic medicines. Modern Vaccines have an excellent safety record and most ‘Vaccine Scares’ have been proven false. All of us need vaccines throughout our lives to be protected against serious diseases. They aren’t just for kids but vaccines can help adults stay healthy too, especially during serious health conditions. Vaccines can lower one’s chances of getting certain diseases by working with your body’s natural defence system to help safely develop immunity towards disease. This lowers the chances of getting certain diseases and chances of sufferings from their complications. For eg: the Hepatitis B vaccine lowers your risk of liver cancer; the FLU vaccine lowers the risk of flu-related heart attack or other complications from existing health conditions like chronic lung disease and diabetes; the HPV vaccine lowers the risk of cervical cancer. Vaccines lower your chances of spreading disease among your loved ones.
People with weakened immune systems like infants, older adults, those going through cancer treatment are vulnerable to infections. Whooping cough can be very dangerous to newborn babies and they are too young to be vaccinated. Pregnant women and anyone who is around babies should get a Tdap vaccine to help protect babies from whooping cough.
One may be at risk for vaccine-preventable disease and choice of vaccine recommendation depends on factors such as their age, job, lifestyle, travel or health conditions and vaccines received in the past. The most common vaccines recommended to help them prevent getting and spreading serious diseases could be those against the influenza (seasonal flu) vaccine every year. Every Adult should get a Tdap vaccine to protect against pertussis (whooping cough). Every woman should get the Tdap vaccine whenever they are pregnant. Other than these, common vaccines recommended are those against pneumococcal disease, hepatitis A&B, typhoid, human papillomavirus, etc.
Some adults with specific health conditions, because of age or other factors should not get certain vaccines or should wait before getting them. Different vaccines have different components and each vaccine can affect you differently. Individuals with compromised immune systems, ones who have experienced severe allergic reactions to a particular vaccine are generally advised to wait. There are specific guidelines available for each vaccine. One should talk to the respective consulting doctor to make sure they get the vaccines that are right for them.