Immunizations Are Not Just For Children

Adult immunizations are one of the most effective ways to stay healthy. August is recognized as National Immunization Awareness Month to increase awareness about immunizations across the lifespan.

Many adults don’t realize that immunizations are not just for children, adults also need immunizations to keep them healthy and protected from disease. Over time, immunity from childhood vaccines can fade and allow renewed risk for new and different diseases.

According to the American Lung Association, influenza, or flu, is a serious respiratory illness that is easily spread from person to person and can lead to severe complications, even death. Each year in the U.S., influenza and its related complications result in an estimated 226,000 hospitalizations and anywhere from 3,000 to 49,000 deaths. The American Lung Association’s “Missed Opportunities: Influenza & Pneumonia Vaccination in Older Americans” report shows that the flu shot can be up to 70 percent effective in preventing hospitalizations for both influenza and pneumonia in those over 65.

Fortunately, all Medicare consumers are eligible for flu vaccines once a flu season in the fall or winter. A flu vaccine is necessary every year because flu viruses are always changing. It is recommended for adults over age 50, residents of long term care facilities, health care workers, those with chronic medical conditions, as well as certain others.

In 2009, 1.1 million people in the U.S. were hospitalized with pneumonia and, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), more than 50,000 people died from the disease. These numbers could be dramatically reduced by vaccinations. The pneumococcal vaccine is covered for all Medicare consumers, and can be administered at any time of the year. The vaccine is recommended for all those age 65 or older as well as those with chronic heart, lung, liver or kidney diseases, residents of long term care facilities and certain ethnic populations.

“People need to stay current on their immunizations as an adult, just as they did when they were young,” says Dr. Donald Wilson, Medical Director for Quality Insights of Pennsylvania, the Medicare Quality Improvement Organization for Pennsylvania. “A flu and pneumonia vaccine in the fall could potentially save your life, so call your doctor today and ask about them.”

Vaccine recommendations for adults are based on a variety of factors including age, lifestyle, high-risk conditions, type and location of travel, overall health status, medical history and previous immunizations.

To help individuals understand what vaccines they might need, the CDC encourages adults to review the Adult Immunization Schedule [PDF - 264 KB] or take a simple quiz to determine which vaccines are needed. The results of this quiz can then be printed out and shared with your health care provider(s).

For more information on how Medicare can help to keep you healthy, please visit Quality Insights’ Web site at http://www.qipa.org/Medicare-Consumers/Your-Health.aspx.

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