FRIDAY, Aug. 19 (HealthDay News) -- Regular vaccinations for adults can help protect children, seniors and people with weakened immune systems, but few American adults get the recommended immunizations, experts say.
A recent report from the non-profit Trust for America's Health found that less than one-third of adults in the United States get an annual flu shot and only 2 percent are vaccinated against tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough.
Adults should stay current on their vaccines for many reasons, according to Dr. William Schaffner, chairman of the preventive medicine department at Vanderbilt Medical School in Nashville, Tenn.
Doing so not only protects adults against many diseases, it prevents them from transmitting those diseases to family members, infants and elders, bolstering public health in general.
Getting the Tdap vaccine against whooping cough, diphtheria and tetanus is particularly important.
"Young babies are the most vulnerable [against whooping cough]," Schaffner said in a Society for Women's Health Research news release. "Everyone needs to get vaccinated who will have contact with babies in the home. And it is now recommended that pregnant women who haven't been vaccinated with Tdap should be in the 2nd and 3rd trimester to protect themselves and their baby."
"If everyone in a family is vaccinated, it confers a cocoon of protection, so we don't bring the virus or bacteria home and expose our youngest family members," he explained. In addition, "the more people who are vaccinated, the more protected a community will be."
"The frail, older and immunocompromised members of society can survive, but are apt to have severe outcomes with certain infections and they cannot respond optimally to vaccines," Schaffner said.
This means that by getting recommended vaccinations, stronger members of a society can help protect weaker ones, he concluded.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention outlines an adult immunization schedule.
-- Robert Preidt
SOURCE: Society for Women's Health Research, news release, Aug. 12, 2011
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