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Officials Urge More Adult Vaccinations

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Officials Urge More Adult Vaccinations

Your Health

Officials Urge More Adult Vaccinations

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It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.


And I'm Renee Montagne.

In Your Health today, the pros and cons of finding a doctor online.

But first, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says there's a simple way for older adults to protect themselves from shingles, whooping cough and other diseases - get vaccinated.

NPR's Allison Aubrey reports.

ALLISON AUBREY: If you've long thought of vaccines as shots for children, infectious disease experts and the CDC want you to reconsider. For starters, there's the shingles vaccine; only 2 percent of adults over 60 have gotten it. But experts say the shot could stave off many of the one million new cases each year. Many people may think they're not at risk. But speaking to a group of reporters during a press conference yesterday, shingles expert Michael Oxman laid it on the table.

Dr. MICHAEL OXMAN (VA San Diego Healthcare System): Everyone who has had chicken pox, and that's basically everyone in this room, is at risk of getting shingles.

AUBREY: That's because the chicken pox virus can lay dormant and reactivate decades later, causing shingles. Oxman says adults 60 and older should get the vaccine, since the risk increases with age. He explains shingles usually appears as a blistering rash on one side of the face or torso.

Dr. OXMAN: Nearly everyone who gets shingles has pain. Many people describe the shingles pain as the worst pain they've ever endured.

AUBREY: The story is similar with the pertussis or whooping cough vaccine. The incidence of this disease is on the rise, but less than 2 percent of adults have gotten the shot. People usually survive pertussis, but it can persist for weeks and lead to broken ribs, the cough is so intense.

The CDC's Anne Schuchat says the low immunization rates for adult vaccines is sobering, not just with pertussis and shingles but for flu and pneumonia vaccines as well. Part of it's lack of awareness; some of it may be cost.

Dr. ANNE SCHUCHAT (CDC): We obviously have a lot more work to do, and it involves literally rolling up our sleeves.

AUBREY: To get more adults vaccinated, Schuchat says she hopes doctors and health care providers will lead the way. The CDC survey found that most people say they'd go ahead with the shots if their doctor recommended them.

Allison Aubrey, NPR News, Washington.

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