For most adults, flu season marks the one time each year they consider getting vaccinated to protect themselves against disease. However, according to infectious disease experts with University of Iowa Health Care, flu is not the only vaccine-preventable disease that adults should think about.
"The big vaccines for adults to consider along with influenza vaccine are the shingles vaccine and the pneumococcal vaccine," says Patricia Winokur, MD, UI professor of internal medicine and director of the vaccine treatment unit.
- Influenza is estimated to cause 30,000 to 40,000 deaths in the United States each year and the highest risk populations are infants and people over the age of 65. Flu vaccination is needed annually because influenza immunity is relatively short-lived and the virus changes each year.
- Pneumococcal pneumonia is a bacterial infection that causes an estimated 175,000 hospitalizations each year in the United States, and invasive pneumococcal disease causes more than 6,000 deaths annually. More than half of these cases involve adults for whom vaccination against pneumococcal disease is recommended.
- Shingles affects up to one million Americans every year and causes a painful, blistering rash. The pain may last long after the rash disappears and can be severe. The risk of getting shingles increases with age.
"Vaccine-preventable diseases, including these three, cause significant illness and death in adults, particularly older adults and those with underlying medical conditions," Winokur says. "A single dose of zoster vaccine is recommended for adults aged 60 and older to protect against shingles, and adults age 65 and older should get the pneumococcal vaccine -- the 'pneumonia' shot -- as should adults aged 18 to 64 who have chronic lung, heart, liver or kidney disease."