(Salt Lake City, UT) – Each year in the U.S., approximately 50,000 adults die from vaccine-preventable diseases or their complications. In Utah, since 2008, 45 people have died from pneumococcal disease, a leading cause of serious illness in children and adults throughout the world. Other vaccine-preventable illnesses that have resulted in Utah deaths over the past several years include hepatitis A and mumps. And each year, it’s estimated that 360 Utahns die from influenza. The best way to protect against all these illnesses is vaccination.
Senator Karen Mayne was the keynote speaker at a kickoff event for Adult Immunization Awareness Month today that highlighted the importance of adult immunizations. She was joined by members of the Utah Adult Immunization Coalition (UAIC), state and local health departments and other immunization partners.
According to Senator Mayne, one of the sponsors of a resolution naming October Adult Immunization Month in Utah, it’s these figures that prompted her to bring the issue to the forefront. Senator Mayne says, “Too often, we make sure our kids are adequately immunized, but our own health is compromised because we just don’t understand the importance.” Because the effectiveness of some vaccines lessens over time, many adults don’t understand they’re at risk from serious, sometimes fatal diseases. She adds, “By not getting vaccinated, we’re spreading disease to everyone. When adults are unvaccinated, they also put our most vulnerable citizens, the children, at risk.”
Nothing brought the issue to the forefront quite like Utah’s 2011 measles outbreak. Teresa Garrett, Director of the Division of Disease Control and Prevention, Utah Department of Health (UDOH) says, “Everyone needs to understand that the impact of people not getting vaccinated is community-wide.” When the first measles case was confirmed, every person who had been in contact with the infected individual, and couldn’t prove his or her immunization status was asked to stay home. Garrett adds, “As a result, the outbreak affected area hospitals, clinics, private providers, day care centers, one school district, four schools (from elementary to high school), a community college, and two large community gatherings.”
Excluded schoolchildren missed classroom lessons, assignments, and exams along with sports games, proms, and other activities. Plus, one business in central Utah even had to ask 100 employees who were born after 1957 and couldn’t provide proof of immunization to stay home as a precaution.
Dr. Audrey Stevenson, Director of Family Health, Salt Lake Valley Health Department (SLVHD), says because so much focus is put on making sure the very young and very old are immunized, sometimes it’s easy to forget that vaccinations help everyone stay healthy. “Throughout your adult life, you need immunizations to get and maintain protection against illnesses such as seasonal flu, tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis, shingles, and pneumonia. When adults are up-to-date on their vaccinations, they protect themselves and those around them, especially babies who are too young to be vaccinated.”
For more information on what immunizations adults should be getting, visit www.immunize-utah.org. Adults who want to check their Utah immunization status may visit http://www.usiis.org/index.shtml.
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