By BETHANN CAMERON, U.S. Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive MedicineAugust 24, 2009
Children are not the only people who need immunizations-young adults to senior citizens can benefit from immunizations, too.
Many adults become ill, disabled or die each year from diseases that could easily have been prevented by being immunized.
Immunizations also benefit people in the community where immunized persons live or work, putting fewer numbers of people at risk by preventing the spread of diseases. Diseases like influenza (flu), tetanus and measles can cost Soldiers, Families and civilian personnel time and money because of doctor visits, lost duty and work time and hospitalizations.
Some adults assume that the immunizations they received as children will protect them for the rest of their lives. Usually this is true, except that:
Some adults were never immunized as children,
Newer vaccines were not available when some adults were children,
Immunity can begin to fade over time, and
As the body gets older it becomes more susceptible to serious diseases caused by common infections (for example, flu and pneumococcus).
These circumstances require that adults make sure their immunizations are up to date. The recommended ones are: influenza, pneumococcal polysaccharide (PPSV), Td/Tdap (Tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis), MMR (measles, mumps, rubella), varicella (chickenpox) and hepatitis B. People who travel overseas, college students and young women may require additional immunizations. Healthcare providers also recommend immunizations for adults who have chronic illness such as heart disease, lung disease and liver disease, or other risk factors such as alcoholism or cigarette smoking.
How do immunizations work' They prevent disease in the people who receive them. A weakened form of disease is injected into the body. The body makes antibodies to fight the invader. If the actual disease ever attacks the body in the future, the antibodies will still be there to destroy it.
Immunizations protect the personal health of military personnel, help maintain mission readiness and are required. An immunized Soldier is less likely to become seriously ill from a disease that threatens his or her unit's mission. By staying healthy, the immunized Soldier helps other Soldiers accomplish their mission. Even though immunizations have reduced diseases to low levels in the United States, many diseases are still common in other parts of the world. Soldiers, civilians and contractor getting ready to deploy may require specific, additional immunizations depending on the health risks where they are deploying.
Military personnel, their Family members and civilian personnel should work closely with their healthcare providers to schedule immunizations and make sure that immunizations are up to date.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has the 2009 Adult Immunization Schedule recommended for anyone over age 18. It is available in English and Spanish and may be downloaded. To see the complete list of immunizations recommended by the CDC for adults (as well as recommendations and schedules for adolescents and children), go to http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/recs/schedules.
The Military Vaccine Agency has immunization charts for U.S. military personnel in any of the Department of Defense services including the Coast Guard. MilVax also provides lists of vaccines by type of military population-trainees, active-duty and reservists, as well as for deployments. Recommended guidelines and charts are on the Web at http://www.vaccines.mil/default.aspx'cnt=resource/servicesHome.