Vaccinations – not only for babies!

Posted on 29 March 2018

Every few years new vaccinations become available. There are now life-saving vaccinations available that were not offered to you as a child. Dr Delene Brink, Medical Microbiologist at PathCare, explains which 10 vaccinations are useful to ask your doctor about…and when you may need a booster:

1. Pneumococcus

Streptococcus pneumoniae can cause severe infections, e.g. pneumonia and septicaemia. Especially in elderly or immunocompromised patients. All adults older than 65 years should get a PCV 13 vaccine, followed up by a PPSV 23 vaccine 6-12 months later. Adults aged 19-64 years with certain medical conditions e.g. chronic heart and lung diseases and diabetes mellitus are also advised to vaccinate.

2. Pertussis (with tetanus and diphtheria or Tdap)

Also known as “whooping cough”. The pertussis vaccine is available in a combined vaccine with diphtheria and tetanus. It is recommended that all adults have one dose of Tdap, followed by a Td (tetanus and diphtheria) booster every 10 years. Have you had yours?

3. Varicella

Varicella infection (Chickenpox) in an adult patient may cause severe pneumonia.  The vaccine is recommended for all adults without evidence of immunity to varicella. The patient will need two doses of the vaccine 4-8 weeks apart.

4. Zoster

The Zoster vaccine can protect against shingles. It is recommended for all adult patients older than 50 years regardless of past episodes of shingles. It is not recommended for adults with severe immunodeficiency. Shingles is common in elderly patients. and presents as a painful, itchy skin condition. The rash often wraps around from the torso to the spine, but it can affect any part of the face or body.

5. Measles, mumps and rubella (MMR)

One dose of the vaccine is recommended for all adults with no evidence of immunity to measles, mumps or rubella. Special care should be taken to vaccinate women of childbearing age with no evidence of immunity. This is because rubella or ‘German measles’ is linked to birth defects or stillbirths. The MMR vaccine is contra-indicated (not advised) in pregnant women and adults with severe immunodeficiency.

6. Human papillomavirus (HPV)

HPV can cause cervical and other cancers. The vaccination is recommended for females up to the age of 26 and for males up to the age of 21. However, it should ideally first be administered at age 11 or 12 to pre-teen boys and girls. Two to three doses of the vaccine is necessary depending on the age of the patient.

7. Hepatitis A

The vaccine is recommended for healthcare workers and adults with certain risk factors. For example, those travelling to countries with high hepatitis A rates or patients with chronic liver disease. The disease is often caused by poor hand hygiene before food preparation.

8. Hepatitis B

The vaccine is recommended for healthcare workers and adults with certain risk factors. For example, HIV infection or chronic liver disease. The hepatitis B vaccine is also recommended for adults with a sexual exposure risk if their partner is HBsAg positive.

9. Meningococcal

Neisseria meningitides can cause meningitis. The meningococcal vaccine is recommended for adults with certain diseases or immune deficiencies and those using certain medications. People travelling to countries where meningococcal disease is endemic should be vaccinated. This includes countries in the African meningitis belt. Travellers should also be vaccinated before the Hajj (the annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca). The vaccination is additionally recommended for military recruits and first-year students who live in residential housing. If the risk remains present, adults should be vaccinated every five years.

10. Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib)

The vaccination is recommended for adults with certain medical conditions or those who are undergoing stem cell transplant. It prevents meningitis, pneumonia and other serious infections.

Remember, vaccines not only prevent infection in vaccinated people, but also provide “herd immunity” – it helps prevent the transmission of infection from close contacts of sick patients.

For more in-depth information, visit the CDC Website (www.cdc.gov) or the NICD at

(www.nicd.ac.za) or consult your healthcare provider.

Published in Healthy Life

In the interest of our patients, in accordance with SA law and our commitment to expertise, Mediclinic cannot subscribe to the practice of online diagnosis. Please consult a medical professional for specific medical advice. If you have any major concerns, please see your doctor for an assessment. If you have any cause for concern, your GP will be able to direct you to the appropriate specialists.

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