Vaccination rates are dropping and the rate of once almost eradicated diseases is rising. Vaccinations play a key role in preventing an outbreak of these diseases. While many think of vaccines as only affecting children, it is important to consider that vaccinations are also necessary for adults.
In the late 1990s a big debate about vaccinations began, and it has not slowed down today. Because of this debate, each year there have been fewer children receiving vaccinations. Now diseases are on the rise because of the falling vaccination rate.
As the disease rates rise, people who were once protected by herd immunity can no longer rely on others to keep them healthy. Herd immunity occurs when the majority of the population has been vaccinated. If the majority of the population has been vaccinated against a disease, and that disease enters the population, very few people will contract it because the majority of the herd is immune. As the immunity of the herd goes down, the rate of disease goes up.
There have been outbreaks of these almost forgotten diseases, such as measles and whooping cough, in neighborhoods where there is a large population of unvaccinated individuals. As these diseases continue to rise, it is important for adults to receive their vaccinations. Adults use to be able to rely on herd immunity, much like infants who cannot receive all of their vaccines, or individuals who have compromised immune systems and cannot receive vaccinations.
Vaccinations need booster shots in order to remain effective. Because so many adults have not been a witness to these diseases, it is easy to forget about the diseases. Forgetting about the disease also means forgetting about booster shots. The adult vaccinations are necessary for adults to remain healthy.
Among the vaccines available for adults is tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (Tdap), which helps prevent whooping cough. It is especially important for adults to receive the Tdap vaccine, not only for themselves but in order to protect any unvaccinated infants they may come in contact with. Infants who are too young to receive the vaccine; infants who count on those able to be vaccinated to protect them with herd immunity.
50,000 Americans contracted whooping cough in 2012, making it the largest outbreak of its kind in half of a century. There were at least 18 deaths related to the outbreak.
Just last week, the state of California had to issue an advisory regarding measles exposure. As the vaccination rate continues to drop, it is no longer certain that adults will be protected by herd immunity. Instead, it must be up to adults to get vaccinated in an effort to not only remain healthy, but to attempt to slow the spread of diseases.
In addition to the Tdap vaccine, vaccines for adults include the flu shot, shingles, pneumococcal disease, Hepatitis B, and varicella which is used to protect against chicken pox. It is important that adults discuss vaccinations with their healthcare providers in order to determine which vaccines are necessary.
By Ashley Campbell
The News Star
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention