Every year, tens of thousands of adults in the United States suffer serious health problems, are hospitalized, or even die from diseases that could have been prevented by vaccination.

    Every year, tens of thousands of adults in the United States suffer serious health problems, are hospitalized, or even die from diseases that could have been prevented by vaccination.

     To celebrate the importance of immunizations throughout life – and to help remind adults that they need vaccines, too – Polk County Public Health is recognizing August as National Immunization Awareness Month. This is the perfect opportunity to make sure adults are protected against diseases like flu, whooping cough, tetanus, shingles and pneumococcal disease.

     “There is a misconception among many adults that vaccines are just for children,” said Nan Widseth Rn, PHN, Polk County Public Health Disease Prevention and Control Coordinator. “The truth is, you never outgrow the need for immunizations.”

     Every year, tens of thousands of adults in the U.S. needlessly suffer, are hospitalized, and even die from diseases that could be prevented by vaccines.

    •    Each year, an average of 226,000 people are hospitalized due to influenza and between 3,000 and 49,000 people die of influenza and its complications, the majority are among adults.

    •    About 900,000 people get pneumococcal pneumonia every year, leading to as many as 400,000 hospitalizations and 19,000 deaths,  

    •    700,000 to 1.4 million people suffer from chronic hepatitis B, with complications such as liver cancer.

    •    In the U.S., HPV causes about 17,000 cancers in women, and about 9,000 cancers in men each year. About 4,000 women die each year from cervical cancer.

    Of the approximately one million cases of shingles that occur annually, up to one in five cases (10-20)

    Most adults have probably not received all the vaccines they need.

    •    Unfortunately, far too few adults are receiving the recommended vaccines, leaving themselves and their loved ones vulnerable to serious diseases.

    •    According to CDC data,:

    •    Only 20% of adults 19 years or older had received Tdap vaccination. – National Health Interview Survey 2014

    •    Only 28% of adults 60 years or older had received shingles (herpes zoster) vaccination. – National Health Interview Survey 2014

    •    Only 20% of adults 19 to 64 years at increased risk had received pneumococcal vaccination. – National Health Interview Survey 2014

    •    Only about 44% of adults 18 years or older received a flu vaccine during the 2014-2015 flu season. – Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System 2014-2015   

    •    Health care professionals play a critical role in educating their patients about recommended vaccines and ensuring that they are fully immunized.

    •    CDC asks ALL health care professionals – whether they provide immunization services or not – to routinely assess the vaccine needs of their patients and make a strong recommendation for needed vaccinations.  

    Adults should talk with their health care professional to learn which vaccines are recommended for them, and take steps to get up to date

Frequently Asked Questions

    Frequently asked questions can be a helpful tool for developing web content, fact sheets, newsletters, and other educational materials to answer your constituents’ questions about vaccines.

Why do adults need vaccines?  

    Vaccines are recommended throughout your life. Even if you were fully vaccinated as a child, you may be at risk for other diseases due to your age, job, lifestyle, travel, or health condition. In addition, the protection from some vaccines can wear off over time. All adults need vaccinations to protect against serious diseases that could result in severe illness requiring medical treatment or even hospitalization, missed work, and not being able to care for family.
Are vaccine-preventable diseases really a threat for adults?  

    Every year, thousands of adults in the U.S. suffer serious health problems, are hospitalized, and even die from diseases that could be prevented by vaccines. Many of these diseases are common in the U.S. For example, in 2014, there were about 27,000 cases of invasive pneumococcal disease and 3,200 deaths among adults ages 19 and older. In addition, about 1 million cases of shingles and millions of cases of influenza occur each year in the U.S.

     Older adults and adults with chronic health conditions such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), heart disease and diabetes are at higher risk of suffering complications from certain vaccine-preventable diseases like flu and pneumonia.  
What vaccines do adults need? How often and when do they need them?  

    The vaccines a person needs are based on their age, medical conditions, occupation, vaccines they have received in the past, and other factors. Taking the CDC adult vaccine quiz (www.cdc.gov/vaccines/AdultQuiz) is one way to find out which vaccines you might need.  

     All persons 6 months of age and older are recommended to get the flu vaccine every year, with rare exception. Flu vaccination is especially important for those who are at high risk of serious flu-related complications, including adults 65 years and older, pregnant women and people with certain chronic conditions like asthma, diabetes, or heart disease. Also vaccination of caregivers of high risk persons is especially important to protect those who are at high risk. Example of caregivers include parents of children younger than 6 months (because they are too young to be vaccinated); health care workers, or anyone who works in a long-term care facility.  

     Getting vaccinated against the flu while pregnant during any trimester decreases the risk of flu and flu-related illnesses for the mother and developing baby throughout the pregnancy and can protect the baby for several months after birth.

    This protection is crucial since children younger than 6 months old are too young to receive their own flu vaccine, and are at high risk of severe illness from flu.  

     All adults should get a one-time dose of Tdap vaccine to protect against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (whooping cough) if they did not receive this vaccine as a preteen or teen. Whooping cough has been on the rise in recent years, and can be very serious, and even deadly for babies. All adults should receive a Td booster every 10 years to protect against tetanus and diphtheria. These two diseases are uncommon now because of vaccines, but they can be very serious.  

     Women are recommended to get a Tdap vaccine during the third trimester of every pregnancy to help protect themselves and their newborn babies against whooping cough. They should get Tdap during pregnancy even if they have had a prior Tdap shot.

     Other vaccines you need as an adult are determined by factors such as age, lifestyle, job, health condition, and vaccines you’ve received in the past. Vaccines that may be recommended for you are vaccines that protect against shingles, pneumococcal disease, human papillomavirus (which can cause certain cancers), meningococcal disease, hepatitis A and B, chickenpox, and measles, mumps and rubella (MMR).

     If you’re traveling abroad, you may need additional vaccines. Check the CDC travel website at www.cdc.gov/travel for more information on what you should do to prepare for travel based on where you are traveling.  
Why are we hearing about these vaccines now?  

    Many of the vaccines recommended for adults have been around for years.  

     We’re hearing more about the MMR vaccine because of measles outbreaks in the United States in previous years. Every year, unvaccinated travelers get measles while abroad and bring the disease into the United States. They can spread the disease to other people who are not protected against measles, which sometimes leads to outbreaks. This can occur in communities with unvaccinated people, including unvaccinated adults. For those travelling internationally, CDC recommends that all U.S. residents older than 6 months receive MMR vaccine, if needed, prior to departure.

     One reason we’re hearing more about Tdap is the recent increase in whooping cough over the past few years. More than 18,000 cases were reported provisionally in the United States in 2015. We have learned that protection from the whooping cough vaccine given to children doesn’t last into adulthood.

     Therefore, all adults are recommended to get one dose of Tdap if they did not receive it as a preteen or teen. CDC also recommends that women get Tdap during the third trimester of EACH pregnancy to give their babies short-term protection from whooping cough when the babies are too young to be immunized.  

     Getting vaccinated during pregnancy is important as this can provide protection to children less than three months old—those most likely to have severe illness from whooping cough. Whooping cough is most severe for babies; about half of babies younger than 1 year old who get the disease need treatment in the hospital. Up to 20 babies die each year because of whooping cough.
Are vaccines safe for people with certain health conditions or people who take prescription medications?  

    For people with certain chronic health conditions like diabetes, asthma, or heart disease, it is even more important to be up to date on vaccines because they are at increased risk for complications from certain vaccine-preventable diseases like flu and pneumonia. For instance, diabetes can make the immune system less able to fight infections. Additionally, flu illness can make it harder for someone with diabetes to control their blood sugars. These complications put people with diabetes at higher risk of flu-related complications, including illness that can result in hospitalization. That’s why it’s especially important for people with diabetes and certain other high risk factors to get the flu vaccine every year.

     It is safe for people who are taking prescription medications to get vaccines. There are, however, other factors that may make it unsafe for some people to get certain vaccines, such as allergy to a vaccine or a certain vaccine ingredient. And live vaccines should not be given to people with weakened immune systems or to pregnant women. Talk to your health care professional to determine which vaccines are recommended for you. .
Will health insurance help pay for vaccines?  

    All Health Insurance Marketplace plans and most other private insurance plans must cover the following list of vaccines without charging a copayment or coinsurance when provided by an in-network provider:  

    •    Hepatitis A  
    •    Hepatitis B  
    •    Shingles
    •    Human Papillomavirus  
    •    Influenza  
    •    Measles, Mumps, Rubella  
    •    Meningococcal  
    •    Pneumococcal  
    •    Tetanus, Diphtheria, Pertussis  
    •    Chickenpox

Check with your health insurance provider for details. Make sure to ask them which providers you can go to for vaccinations.
Medicare Part B will pay for the following vaccines:  

    •    Influenza (flu) vaccine
    •    Pneumococcal vaccines  
    •    Hepatitis B vaccines for persons at increased risk of hepatitis  
    •    Vaccines directly related to the treatment of an injury or direct exposure to a disease or condition, such as rabies and tetanus  
Medicare Part D or Medicare Advantage Plan Part C that offers Medicare prescription drug coverage may also have partial or full coverage for other vaccines, including:  
    •    Shingles vaccine
    •    MMR vaccine
    •    Td and Tdap vaccines
    •    Hepatitis A

    Most state Medicaid agencies cover at least some adult immunizations but may not offer all vaccines. Check with your state Medicaid agency for more information. Talk to your part C part D plans to find out what your out-of-pocket costs might be for immunizations.  

Why aren’t adults getting their recommended vaccines?  

    Many adults don’t realize they need vaccines to protect against diseases like whooping cough, hepatitis A and B, or pneumococcal disease. Even for those who do realize they need additional vaccines, there are challenges to staying up to-date. As adults, we tend to worry about day-to-day things and are busy caring for our families, so we don’t often think about preventive measures that can help keep us healthy. That’s why it’s so critical for clinicians to strongly recommend the vaccines that patients need. It’s also important for clinicians to refer patients to providers in the area for vaccines they don’t stock.

     Cost may be an issue for some adults. However, most private health insurance covers routinely recommended vaccines. Those eligible for Medicare and Medicaid also have coverage for certain vaccines.

    Talk with your health care professional about which vaccines are right for you based on your age, health, job, lifestyle, and other factors.

    •    Take CDC’s vaccine quiz (www.cdc.gov/vaccines/adultquiz) to find which vaccines may be recommended for you.

    •    Vaccines are available at private doctor offices, as well as other convenient locations such as pharmacies, workplaces, community health clinics and health departments.

    To find out which vaccines you need and where you can get vaccinated, contact Polk County Public Health at 281-3385. Check the adult immunization schedule for all recommended vaccines for adults:

    There are many things adults do to stay healthy. We know we need to eat the right foods and exercise. We need to get our recommended cancer screenings. Another important thing we need to do is get our recommended vaccines. All adults should talk to their healthcare professional about which vaccines are right for them – and get vaccinated.