You are never too old to get vaccinated!

Twenty-four-year-old Preeti was a healthy and active girl, who seldom fell ill, till one day she noticed small blisters erupting on her body. Curiously, these oozed fluid, when broken.

Within two days the blisters were all over her person, including the scalp, and the same day the doctor confirmed it as chickenpox. Very soon, her whole family had caught the infection, with not one person left to take care of the other, and then the worry began on how to get rid of the nasty marks.

Preeti could have avoided this situation had she known about the chickenpox vaccine. This vaccine came into the market only about 10 years back which means that most people of Preeti’s age and above could not avail of it as children, and most likely, remain unaware of its existence.

“Many people think that vaccines are only meant for children, and that after you have taken them as infants, they’ll provide you protection for a lifetime,” says Dr RK Singal, senior consultant, Internal Medicine, BLK Super Speciality Hospital, “Unfortunately, that’s not true.”

“Newer diseases and vaccinations to them are coming up every few years and it’s crucial that you consult a doctor on the ones to be taken. Chickenpox, for example, is not just a nasty disease but can prove to be fatal if contracted by an expecting woman.

It can kill the mother and cause congenital defects in the child. Another very important vaccine which girls should take is for protection against the Human Papillomavirus which causes Cervical Cancer. It is most effective on girls who are yet to come into sexual contact.”

The other vaccinations which fall in this bracket are for Hepatitis B, Hepatitis A, Typhoid and Herpes Zoster. Both Hepatitis A and B virus cause jaundice, and the type B virus especially stays in the body to potentially cause liver cirrhosis and liver cancer at later stages.

Typhoid is also extremely common in India with lack of availability of clean water and food making the vaccination crucial, and so is the vaccine for Herpes Zoster also known as Shingles.

Another reason why adults must also ‘repeat’ certain vaccinations is because the immunity granted by them fades over time. Dr Manjeetha Nath Das, consultant, Internal Medicine, Rockland Hospital, says, “Though all young ones receive the Tetanus, Diphtheria and Pertussis (Tdap) vaccine once, it is important to get a ‘Tdap booster’ after turning 18.

It prevents a highly-infectious disease called whooping cough. Also, everyone must take a Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) booster, women especially.” It is important to note here that just as children lack immunity and hence need compulsory immunisation, the elderly also lack strong antibodies and require certain vaccines.

“If you have a senior citizen at home, take him or her for Pneumococcal vaccination,” adds Dr Manjeetha, “It is especially significant for those who have a compromised immune system and respiratory problems already.”

“Remember, if the elders in a family are immunised, they are less likely to pass on a virus to a newborn who is too weak to fight an infection. When we are all vaccinated and immunised as a com­munity, it prevents severe disease outbreaks and even eliminates the virus completely.”

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