Doc says adults should also be vaccinated

While the Department of Health (DOH) is urging parents and guardians to have their children immunized, a leading Filipino infectious disease physician also recommends that older Filipinos adults be vaccinated.

“Most of us do not realize that not only were vaccines needed when we were babies, they can be especially important as we grow older,”  Dr. Regina Pascua-Berba, who currently leads the Hospital Infection Control Unit at the Philippine General Hospital, said in a a paper published by Health and Lifestyle, a monthly publication for health professionals.

“Vaccination is a very efficient lifesaving approach to healthier aging,” Pascua-Berba said.

Among the adults who need to undergo vaccination are 60 years old and older.  

Vaccination is highly recommended for those who are diabetic, on chemotherapy, taking steroids for arthritis or other illnesses, and whose immune system is weak.

“Our immune functions begin to deteriorate as we age,” Dr. Pascua-Berba explains.  “For those who are at least 60 years old, five types of vaccines are highly recommended: influenza (flu), two vaccines for pneumonia, Tdap or Td, and herpes zoster.”

The recommendations came from the 2018 Philippine Clinical Practice Guidelines for Adult Immunization, the 2017 Immunization Recommendations for Filipino Adults, and 2019 Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices of the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Philippine Foundation of Vaccination in collaboration with the Philippine Society of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases also came out with a publication recommending adult vaccination.

Excerpts from Pascua-Berba’s study went:

Influenza vaccine: “Circulating strains of influenza change every year, so it is important that adults get a flu shot every year before the expected flu season,” she says, adding that quadrivalent flu vaccine is more preferred now than the old trivalent vaccine.

Pneumonia vaccines: The pneumococcal conjugate vaccine and the pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine are recommended to protect the adults from developing frequently encountered infections due to a bacterium called Streptococcus pneumoniae.

Tdap (Tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis) or Td (Tetanus-diphtheria) vaccines: This vaccine protects adults against three diseases: tetanus (a noncommunicable bacterial infection), pertussis or whooping cough (a communicable bacterial infection), and diphtheria (another communicable bacterial infection).

Herpes zoster vaccine: Also known as shingles vaccine, this protects adults from shingles, a painful rash that appears on one side of the body and follows a dermatomal distribution. “It is caused by reactivation of the same virus that caused the primary chickenpox,” Dr. Pascua-Berba states.

The doctor who has been part of building multiple policies and projects with the health department and World Health Organization reminds that a healthy immune system can defend the body against invading bugs.

She considers vaccines as “safe” and “have the capability to produce the desired protective antibodies.”

“Vaccination also recruits other immune cells to also remember the types of antigens that cause infection,” she writes.  “This allows for a faster response. So, next time you meet the real microorganism, your body is ready to fight it off!”