It's a slow time for blogging between holidays, vacations and needing to devote time to (PAID!!!) writing, yet I wanted to respond to some of the commenters on my previous post who asked about what immunizations are recommended for "perfectly healthy adults." Here's the thing about official vaccine recommendations. They are:
- Easily accessible
- Changing at an accelerated pace, and
- Developed with applicability to populations as opposed to individuals.
Given that the original triumph of vaccination was the vanquishing of vaccine-preventable childhood diseases, any immunization recommendation regarding diseases that are specifically a hazard to infants and young children are easy to sell. Likewise, the prevention of catastrophic diseases -- even if rare (meningococcal disease) -- are accepted more easily than preventing illnesses that may be uncomfortable and inconvenient but do not have lasting sequelae (hepatitis A.) Questioning the ACIP is difficult for me, like discovering the views of a cherished professor shifting away from what I can comfortably agree with; but I do find myself coming to different conclusions than they when faced with individual patients instead of patient populations.
All that as a disclaimer that the following applies specifically to healthy adults with no special medical issues, no chronic diseases, no specific travel or occupational issues; people not under medical care, living in the United States with reasonable standards of sanitation and hygiene; not in intimate contact with large groups of people (ie, not living in dorms, military barracks, etc.) Also taken into account are my personal opinions based on my clinical knowledge of the applicable vaccine-preventable diseases involved. (Note: explicitly reviewing each of those diseases would render this post ridiculously unwieldy. That information is easily and quickly found at the CDC website linked above.)
Every year: Flu shot
Should be obvious.
Every 10 years: Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis)
At the moment, the official recommendation is only one lifetime Tdap dose with plain Td given every 10 years, but given the waning of pertussis immunity, I'd bet that before the decade is up, plain Td will be history.
At age 60: Zostavax (shingles)
Often devastatingly painful disease, with the pain being permanent up to 10% of the time. The shot is still extremely expensive, therefore difficult for us dinosaurs to stock, and a PITA to obtain at a pharmacy and bring to the office for injection, since it has to remain frozen, but overall probably a good idea.
At age 65: Pneumovax (pneumococcal disease, the #1 cause of pneumonia in the elderly)
Once per lifetime; previous recommendations for boosters have been rescinded.
For those few adults who have had neither chickenpox disease nor vaccination: Varivax, two doses 4-8 weeks apart
Chickenpox is no big deal in kids, despite the ACIP scare tactics of including immunosuppressed kids undergoing cancer chemotherapy or suffering from HIV in their morbidity and mortality statistics, but vaccination has become such a juggernaut I can't really do anything about it anymore. Still, adults are more likely to suffer complications from chickenpox; and varicella pneumonia carries a 10% mortality. Nothing to sneeze at.
That's basically it. Don't get me started on the Hep A and Hep B (covered in the disclaimer by the travel, sanitation and occupational clauses) or the HPV vaccine Gardasil. As I've said previously, I've softened my virulent stance against it somewhat, but that's a post for another day.