Adults Need Immunizations, Too When parents bring their children in for shots, one can often sense a touch of relief that, as adults, their time with the needle is over. Wrong. Immunizing adults is the most natural, cost-effective way of preventing illness.
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Adults Need Immunizations, Too

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Adults Need Immunizations, Too

Adults Need Immunizations, Too

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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This is DAY TO DAY. I'm Alex Chadwick.


I'm Madeleine Brand.

The world's stock markets have spooked a lot of investors this week. In a few minutes we'll speak with one investment manager who sold everything.

Mr. PAUL KRSEK (K&A Asset Management): We sent a newsletter to all our clients that said we've exited the building and we're out of the market. And frankly, that's turned out to be one of the best calls we've made in a long time.

BRAND: That interview coming up. But first, a reminder today from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Adults need vaccinations too.

CHADWICK: And the CDC says too many adults are skipping vaccinations and leaving themselves vulnerable, not just to the flu but to other illness like shingles and whooping cough and cervical cancer.

BRAND: So which shots should we grown-ups be getting?

CHADWICK: Here with us, Dr. Sydney Spiesel. He's a professor at Yale Medical School. He writes for the online magazine Slate, and he's a regular contributor to DAY TO DAY.

Syd, welcome back.

Dr. SYDNEY SPIESEL (Yale Medical School): Thank you. Nice to be here.

CHADWICK: So what is it about adults and immunizations? Because you think this is over for me.

Dr. SPIESEL: Well, it's hardly over for any of us and one of the reasons is that over time, slowly, protection fades from earlier shots. Also, sometimes our needs change, you know? There are new - there are diseases that are particularly important to be protected against for older people that we don't need to protect children against so much.

CHADWICK: Is this just some kind of childhood fantasy of mine that there were vaccinations you would get and immunizations and you would never need to attend to this again?

Dr. SPIESEL: Well, yes. That was indeed the fantasy that all children have. You know, here's the sort of yucky thing that happens when you go to the doctor, then it's done. And I think that in a certain way pediatricians are, of course, very too attuned to immunization, but often people who deal with adults are less tuned in and less alert to it, and often partly because it's a little harder to store vaccines than it is to store other things in an office. So it's kind of more of a hassle for docs dealing with older people.

CHADWICK: What sort of specific booster shots do you think most adults would be needing, and what kinds of things should people be asking their physicians about?

Dr. SPIESEL: The first thing that we need is a booster that people should get every 10 years, really, is a booster against tetanus lockjaw. This is - you know, this is a disease that is the result of bacteria being introduced into deep, ugly wounds. You know, think about stepping on a rusty nail. That's the vaccine that protects against this particularly awful disease.

And these days we're encouraging its use in a new form because the new form has the traditional protection against tetanus that also has a little bit of boosting ability against diphtheria and against whooping cough. And so there's a real benefit to the community in - so adults and - even teens and adults can't pass this other diseases on to younger kids.

CHADWICK: Are there other things that are sort of just adult immunizations or vaccinations that we should know about?

Dr. SPIESEL: Well, sure. I mean one of the just adult immunizations that we should know about is a recently introduced vaccine against shingles. Shingles is a terrible, painful, unpleasant disease that occurs in people who when they were much younger had chickenpox. And whenever you get chickenpox, the virus becomes part of your cells forever, and sometimes it gets activated in this very unpleasant form. And so we're really encouraging older people to have this vaccine.

CHADWICK: Okay. And let me just ask about younger adults as well, if I may. Is there something special that they should think about?

Dr. SPIESEL: Well, certainly one of the most important vaccines that we're starting to immunize kids as very early teens, but any women under the age of 27 should get three doses of the vaccine which protects against cervical cancer and genital warts.

CHADWICK: So that would be very, very good information to have. Syd, we are going to post a list of your suggested immunizations at at DAY TO DAY.

Thanks so much for your contributions today.

Dr. SPIESEL: Thank you.

CHADWICK: Opinion from Dr. Sydney Spiesel of Yale Medical School and you can read his Medical Examiner column at

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