Despite it being the worst outbreak in 50 years, adults in this country aren’t rolling up their sleeves for pertussis protection. While more than 70% of children are fully vaccinated against the whooping cough, only 8% of adults are up-to-date on their shot.
“It lasts about five to ten years, twelve tops. So by the time you’re a teenager, you are probably not immune any longer to pertussis. Actually, it’s our adolescent/adult population that transmits this illness,” says Dr. Angela D’Alessandro, a pediatrician with the Lee Memorial Health System medical staff.
The T-DAP vaccine is given to those age 19 and up covers tetanus, diptheria and pertussis. Controlling the spread of illness is one reason people are encouraged to get immunized. That includes an annual flu shot.
“It's such a highly contagious illness and it can cause some significant problems including hospitalizations and death in people as they get older,” says Dr. Sal Lacagnina, vice-president of health and wellness for Lee Memorial Health System.
Other immunizations are aimed directly at the individual rather than the masses. The herpes-zoster vaccine for example, is meant for people who once had chicken pox and are now at risk for shingles.
Only 14% of adults who meet the criteria are getting the shot.
“I was not aware of it until just a few years ago when I started hearing about the vaccine that you can get when you reach age 60,” says Diane Breen, who had chicken pox.
The pneumonia shot has gotten a healthier response. Recommended for those 65 and older, 62% are taking advantage. Finding which shots are right for you is something you should discuss with your doctor.
“Everyone over 40, as part of the questions that you bring to your physician, “which immunizations should I have as part of my wellness exam,” says Dr. Lacagnina.