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Adults Need Vaccines, Too!

August is National Immunization Awareness Month, and a yearly reminder of the importance of vaccines. During National Adult Immunization Week, the American Lung Association reminds to help protect themselves from potentially serious lung diseases such as influenza (the flu) and pneumococcal pneumonia.

An estimated 40,000 to 50,000 adults in the United States die from vaccine-preventable infectious diseases or their complications each year.

As a preventive healthcare measure, vaccines work by teaching the body's immune system to recognize and defend against harmful viruses or bacteria before getting an infection and reduce the chance of getting certain infectious diseases. Most vaccine-preventable diseases are spread from person to person, which means that if one person in a community gets an infectious disease, they can spread it to others.

Older adults and those with weakened immune systems or certain chronic health conditions -like asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) - are especially vulnerable to infectious disease. In fact, for adults 65 and older living with COPD, the risk for contracting pneumococcal pneumonia is 7.7 times higher than their healthy counterparts, and those with asthma are at 5.9 times greater risk.

Different than a bad cold, influenza and pneumococcal pneumonia are potentially serious infectious diseases that may be prevented by vaccines.

Pneumococcal Pneumonia, the most common type of bacterial pneumonia, is often spread through coughing. The symptoms of pneumococcal pneumonia can come quickly and may include high fever, excessive sweating and shaking chills, coughing, difficulty breathing, shortness of breath and chest pain. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Advisory Committee recommends that all adults 65 years or older receive pneumococcal vaccination.

Influenza, commonly known as the flu, is a highly contagious virus that is usually spread through coughing or sneezing. Symptoms can impact the entire body and may include fever, headache, muscle aches, a dry cough, sore throat and nasal congestion. Health officials recommend that everyone six months of age and older receive an influenza vaccination every year.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Healthy People 2020 goal for influenza vaccination is 70 percent for adults 18 and older, but rates are currently at 45 percent as of December 2017.

In addition, the Healthy People goal for any pneumococcal vaccination for adults 65 and older is 90 percent, but rates are only around 62 percent as of 2018 - well below the national goal. Healthy People provides science-based, 10-year national objectives for improving the health of all Americans.

The American Lung Association, in partnership with Pfizer, is urging adults to talk with their healthcare provider about pneumococcal and influenza vaccination, with more information available at Lung.org/pneumococcal and Lung.org/influenza, or call the American Lung Association's Lung HelpLine at 1-800-LUNGUSA.

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Posted on August 20, 2020


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