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September 26, 2006 > Ouch! Those Vaccinations Keep Adults and Teens Healthy Too

Ouch! Those Vaccinations Keep Adults and Teens Healthy Too

Immunization Awareness Week Focuses on Disease Prevention

by Washington Hospital

Going to the doctor for shots…Probably not the greatest memory a person can have from childhood. But those vaccinations we received as infants and children most likely played a huge role in keeping us healthy into adulthood.

Vaccines are sometimes the only things standing between us and potentially deadly diseases, according to Dr. Steven Curran, Washington Hospital Medical Staff family practice physician and medical director of Washington Clinic/Warm Springs and Washington Clinic/Newark and the Washington On Wheels (W.O.W.) Mobile Health Clinic.

“Many of the vaccine-preventable diseases have no cures, so it is imperative that we stop them with the use of vaccines,” Curran said. “It’s easy to forget that hundreds of thousands of people used to die from diseases we can now prevent. Vaccines are the reason, so we can’t afford to take them for granted.”

What may come as a surprise is that vaccines, which contain weakened or killed viruses or bacteria that encourage the body to produce antibodies when introduced into the bloodstream, are needed in adulthood to keep us protected.

National Adult Immunization Awareness Week (NAIAW) 2006, recognized Sept. 24 to 30 by the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID), focuses on adult and adolescent immunization.

Staying healthy as adults

Sherrie Kneebone, a nurse practitioner with the W.O.W. Mobile Health Clinic, is part of a team under the direction of Dr. Curran that travels throughout the Tri-City area providing needed preventive health care measures, such as vaccinations, to underinsured and uninsured segments of the population, as well as local businesses and schools.

Many members of the community she sees, Kneebone says, often are unaware of how important vaccinations are for adults. For those concerned about the safety of vaccines, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that they are among the safest medicines available and are a vital component of disease prevention.

“Many people don’t recognize the importance of adult immunization until they are confronted with an illness – either in themselves or someone close to them – that may have been prevented by a vaccine,” according to Kneebone. “Often people who come down with the flu are more likely to consider that flu shot that they missed the next year.”

The flu vaccination, which individuals should receive annually, is among the most important, especially for high risk populations, such as the elderly. In the United States alone more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu complications and about 36,000 people die from flu, according to CDC statistics.

Protect yourself

In addition to the flu vaccine there are a number of other vaccines that adults and adolescents should receive. Some vaccines do not provide lifelong protection from disease, so it’s important to find out from your physician which vaccines you need to update and when.

“Some injections are boosters of vaccines that we had as children and we offer the boosters at varying times dependent on the individual vaccine and the information provided, which tells us how long it should offer effective immunity,” Kneebone explains.

Other diseases that vaccines protect against include: measles, mumps, rubella, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis A, tetanus (lockjaw), diphtheria, meningitis, pneumonia and pertussis (whooping cough).

“It’s not that long ago people died of diphtheria, and that’s almost unheard of today,” according to Dr. Curran. “Vaccines have made a huge impact on public health.”

A good way to stay protected is to keep up-to-date with new vaccines as they are released. It’s also important to check in with your doctor if you may be traveling or if rates of certain diseases are higher where you live.

“Hepatitis A is not routinely recommended everywhere,” Curran says. “But in places like California, Texas and Florida, where there are many more cases, we do recommend it.”

Kneebone points out that adults who know they will be traveling out of the country may benefit from the Hepatitis A series, which requires two doses at least 6 months apart, and therefore requires some planning.

Keep records!

Individuals should try to keep track of their vaccination records since it’s many times useful to know what they have and have not been immunized against. “People should keep their records as they may be called upon at different times during their lives,” Kneebone says. “It would be important to know when your last tetanus shot was, as you may have to get an immunoglobulin injection if you were not immunized within a certain time frame determined by the health care provider.”

It’s also important to be aware of several new vaccinations that have recently become available to aid in the prevention of various diseases, including shingles, or herpes zoster, which is caused by the chickenpox virus that remains in the nerve roots of all persons who had chickenpox and can come out in your body again years later to cause illness, according to the CDC. To make sure you are receiving appropriate vaccinations for you, talk to you physician.

A healthier community

The W.O.W. Mobile Health Clinic makes regularly scheduled stops at locations within the Tri-City area. To see a schedule of stops, visit, click on “For Our Community,” and select “W.O.W. Mobile Health Clinic” from the drop-down menu.

To find out more or to schedule an appointment, call (510) 608-3203. If your company is interested in utilizing the Washington On Wheels Mobile Health Clinic for occupational medicine services for your employees, call (510) 794-4671.

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