More often than not, when we think vaccines, you we are imagining babies and toddlers. But vaccines are extremely essential for adults and children alike. Certain vaccinations are needed in adults to prevent the adverse effects of vaccine preventable diseases. Vaccines are prescribed to adults on the basis of age, prior vaccinations, health conditions, lifestyle, occupation, and travel.
The immunization of an adult depends on the previous immunization received in childhood. Some vaccines given in childhood need boosters to ensure that they still offer protection.
If you haven’t got these vaccines, contact your doctor now.
The following vaccines are recommended for all healthy Adults:
Tdap Vaccine (Tetanus toxoid, Diphtheria toxoid & Acellular Pertussis)
The vaccine is given for Tetanus (lockjaw) which causes tightening of muscles and painful stiffness. The vaccine is also given to prevent Diphtheria, where a thick coating forms at the back of the throat and to prevent Pertussis (whooping cough) which causes severe coughing leading to vomiting and disturbed sleep. Usually 3 doses of the vaccine are prescribed and a booster needs to administered after every 10 years. This vaccine is usually given in cases of severe cuts and burns.
The Vaccine is prescribed for protection against the flu and is administered to people over the age of 50 in cases of adults. 1 dose has to be administered annually. Since the influenza virus constantly mutates, a new batch is prepared every year and annual vaccination is recommended to be taken in October-November, at the beginning of the peak season of influenza.
The vaccine is used for prevention against a bacterial disease which causes pneumonia and other blood infections. The vaccine is administered to people over the age of 65 with 1 or 3 doses being prescribed depending on the type of vaccine used and the indication (Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine and Pneumococcal polysachharide vaccine).
Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR)
The vaccine is for prevention against Measles, Mumps and Rubella disease. 1 or 2 doses are administered depending on the indication.
Varicella Zoster Vaccine
This vaccine is administered for prevention against chicken pox. Adults who have never had chickenpox in childhood, should receive 2 doses of the vaccine 4 weeks apart. This is important as the complication rate is much higher in adults compared to children.
Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)
This virus the most common sexually transmitted virus and causes genital warts and infections. 3 doses of the vaccine are administered to females between the ages of 11 and 26 and in males between the ages of 11 and 21.
The vaccine is administered in cases of reactivation of the chickenpox virus (Varicella Zoster) the virus causes a painful rash in the body. It is commonly known as Shingles. 1 does is administered to adults over the ages of 60.
The vaccine is prescribed to prevent severe liver infection which can cause scarring of the organ and even organ failure. 3 doses of the vaccine are administered.
This is another type of virus that causes severe liver infection and is highly contagious. 2 or 3 doses of the vaccine are administered depending on the type of vaccine.
This vaccine is used to prevent a bacterial infection which can cause meningitis and other forms of meningococcal disease. 1 dose of the vaccine is administered.
Haemophilus influenza type B (HiB)
It is a bacterial disease which can cause deadly brain infection and is also the leading cause of meningitis.1 dose is usually administered.
The oral vaccine for typhoid is available both as an oral vaccine as well as an injectable. The oral vaccine is administered in 3 doses given on alternate days and the injectable vaccine is administered in 1 dose. A booster for this vaccine is recommended every 3 years.
Rabies which is caused due to animal bites may be prevented by the vaccine. 2 to 5 doses of the vaccine are given depending on the previous immunization status.
Cholera and Japanese Encephalitis vaccines are not recommended on a routine basis.
After vaccination, two to three weeks are required before protective antibodies are formed and therefore exposure during this period, may not confer protection.
It’s important to remember that vaccination does not offer 100% protection and the level of protective antibodies start to decline over time. Hence, booster dose may be required in certain situations, depending on the time elapsed since the last dose.
Vaccination may cause minor adverse effects such as soreness, redness, tenderness or swelling at the injection site as well as a low-grade fever which should only last for a day or two.
Live attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV) which is a nasal spray, MMR vaccine, Varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, and varicella zoster vaccine are withheld in pregnancy. The dose, type of vaccine and recommendations are different in high risk individuals such as those with chronic kidney disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, chronic liver disease, splenectomized patients, etc
Some vaccines are recommended during travel to certain countries, Haj, Umrah and Kumbh Mela and a physician should be consulted for the same. Dengue, Malaria and HIV vaccine are currently not available.
Vaccines are an important weapon in the protection against infectious diseases and prevent significant morbidity and mortality. An Infectious Diseases Specialist should be consulted for recommendations regarding vaccination.
(Dr Mala Kaneria is a consultant and specialist in infectious diseases at Jaslok Hospital and Research Centre)