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Adults skipping many necessary vaccines

Wednesday - 8/27/2014, 5:31am  ET

WASHINGTON -- Adults are generally good about making sure their children get the shots they need for school. But grown-ups need certain vaccinations as well, and many are skipping them.

The trend has the American Lung Association so concerned that it declared Aug. 24-30 Not Just For Kids Week, as part of National Immunization Awareness Month.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says all adults from their 20s on need a dose of the tetanus-diphtheria-pertussis vaccine (TDAP) every 10 years, renewing the protection they got as kids.

"I think people are very surprised when they find out they should get regular immunizations," says Dr. Linda Yau, with Foxhall Internists in D.C.

The TDAP protects against the risk of getting lockjaw from a dirty wound, and guards against two diseases that can affect the respiratory tract. Diphtheria is a serious respiratory infection, while pertussis -- or whooping cough -- can be deadly if passed on to an infant.

Other immunizations for adults start later in life, and are just as important. Yau says they include "a once-in-a-lifetime shot to prevent shingles, which is a reactivation of the chicken pox virus."

Once recommended only for those over age 60, the shingles vaccine was approved last year for adults beginning at age 50.

There has also been a change in recommendations for pneumonia shots: They used to be given only to people older than 65, but a newer, more effective vaccine is now available for those older than 50 as well.

These vaccines, along with an annual flu shot, are not only important for all adults, but also are crucial for those who already have lung conditions.

"Patients that have asthma or other chronic lung diseases should actually get the pneumonia shot on a regular basis every five to seven years," says Yau. Otherwise-healthy adults need only one dose of the new pneumonia vaccine.

Yau says doctors hear all kinds of excuses about shots from patients.

"People tell us they are not going to get sick because they haven't been sick before," says Yau.

But the bottom line is, these vaccines are necessary to protect against chronic diseases that can, in the extreme, be life-threatening. And doctors such as Yau insist that adults, like children, need to stay up to date on their shots to help prevent them from becoming deathly ill.

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