Adult vaccinations: What you need to know
Did you know that certain adult vaccinations are as important as childhood vaccinations? Keep reading to find out more...
When talking about vaccinations the focus is almost always on babies and children, while most adults rarely think of getting any vaccination.
However, a report by Ms Ng Wan Chin in The Straits Times highlights the importance of adult vaccinations and points out that many are not aware of how important certain vaccinations are in helping to boost the immune systems of vulnerable adult populations.
The good news is that more vaccines for adults have now been made available in Singapore and health professionals are hoping this will change common perceptions about adult vaccinations among the public.
Adult vaccinations in Singapore include those for shingles and influenza, with public hospitals such as NUH also offering vaccination programmes for certain groups of adults.
Quoting Dr Leong Hoe Nam, an infectious diseases specialist at Mount Elizabeth Novena Specialist Centre, the news report points out that Singapore currently does not offer a schedule of vaccinations for adults, unlike in the U.S., Europe and Australia.
For now, the Ministry of Health (MOH) recommends the adult vaccinations which protect against influenza and pneumococcal disease for people in high-risk groups, such as those with chronic medical conditions and the elderly.
Not many people are aware that influenza can be fatal for the elderly, those with pre-existing lung disease, diabetes and weakened immune systems.
However, according to the article, despite the MOH’s advice, the number of people in these high-risk groups who get vaccinated is still very low.
This could be because of the lack of awareness among patients, their families and health-care providers.
The article explains that another reason for the low take-up rate of these adult vaccines could be the cost, with an influenza shot costing about $35, and a pneumococcal vaccine costing up to $80 in private clinics.
The article quotes Dr Lim Poh Lian, deputy clinical director of the Communicable Disease Centre, Tan Tock Seng Hospital, as saying that a large number of inpatients have conditions that make it advisable for them to be immunised against major diseases.
As such, it would make sense to offer them these vaccinations before they are discharged, according to Dr Lim.
Hospitalisation also offers an opportunity for these patients to lump the cost of vaccination with the hospital bill, using, for example, funds from their Medisave account.
We also spoke to Dr Wong Kae Thong, a Singaporean General Practitioner who has an interest in women’s and children’s health.
He emphasised the importance of adult vaccinations, especially for older adults, those who travel frequently, and those with chronic medical conditions.
He also mentioned that while the usual adult vaccines (discussed below) are applicable to older adults, the influenza, pneumococcal and shingles vaccines are especially relevant for seniors.
Which adult vaccinations could save lives?
Influenza is a highly contagious viral infection of the respiratory passages causing fever, severe aching, and catarrh, and often occurring in epidemics (Health Promotion Board, Singapore).
Who should get the vaccine? Adults of all ages, especially those with immune system problems, diabetes, and lung, heart, kidney or liver disease
Frequency: Health specialists recommend that adults get this vaccine at least once a year
Cost: About $18 in public hospitals and $25-$35 in private hospitals
2. PNEUMOCOCCAL DISEASE
Pneumococcal disease is the leading infectious cause of death in children and adults worldwide. It is a bacterial infection that causes pneumonia, meningitis, bacteraemia and other life-threatening ailments (Health Promotion Board, Singapore).
Who should get the vaccine? All adults aged 50 years and above, as well as those with immune system problems, diabetes, and lung, heart, kidney or liver disease
Frequency: Those aged 50 and above are advised to have it once. Those with impaired immunity may need it once every 5 years
Cost: About $65 in public hospitals and from $85 in private hospitals
3. TETANUS AND PERTUSSIS
Tetanus, or lockjaw, is a bacterial disease that affects the brain and nervous system. The most common way bacteria enter the system is through a wound or cut (www.medicalnewstoday.com).
Pertussis, or Whooping Cough, is a highly contagious and dangerous respiratory infection (Health Promotion Board, Singapore).
Who should get the vaccine? All adults need booster shots against tetanus after their childhood booster shots at age 10-12. All adults should get booster shots against pertussis too.
Frequency: Once every 10 years for both boosters
Cost: About $65 in public hospitals and $80 at private hospitals
4. MEASLES, MUMPS AND RUBELLA
These are all diseases caused by viruses. Rubella, also known as German Measles, can be very harmful to the foetus of a pregnant woman who contracts the disease.
Who should get the vaccine? All adults over the age of 30 may need this vaccine against all 3 diseases, especially if they missed getting the vaccination as children.
Women thinking about getting pregnant should definitely talk to their doctor about getting a blood test done to see if they have immunity against Rubella.
If they do not, then they should get at least one injection of the vaccine.
Frequency: At least once in adulthood
Cost: About $20-40 at public and private hospitals
5. HEPATITIS B
Hepatitis B is a very common infection of the liver that is caused by the Hepatitis B virus. It is spread by direct contact with the blood or body fluids of an infected person (Health Promotion Board, Singapore).
Who should get the vaccine? All adults who have not been vaccinated against Hepatitis B previously, especially those with pre-existing liver conditions
According to health specialists, you may also need this vaccine if you were born before 1987, when this vaccine was first introduced to all babies as part of the standard childhood immunisation schedule.
You can ask your doctor to do a blood test to check if you have immunity against the virus.
Frequency: One course of 3 doses over 6 months is needed.
Cost: Each dose is approximately $25 in public hospitals, and around $35-$55 at private clinics.
6. CERVICAL CANCER
This is the 9th most common cancer among Singaporean women but can be effectively treated if detected early (Health Promotion Board, Singapore).
Who should get the vaccine? Females aged between 13 and 26 can get the vaccine. Males aged between 11 and 26 can get it to prevent anal cancer.
Frequency: One course of 3 doses over 6 months is needed.
Cost: Each dose is about $120 in public hospitals, and around $140 at private clinics.
Chickenpox is a highly contagious and common childhood disease. If an adult contracts the disease, he/she will, in general, be more severely affected by it than a child.
Who should get the vaccine? All kids and adults who have not been vaccinated against this virus should receive the vaccination.
Frequency: One course of 2 doses is needed over 6 months.
Cost: Both doses cost around $70 in public hospitals, and between $70-$120 at private clinics.
Shingles is a viral infection that causes a painful rash known as Herpes Zoster. It’s caused by the Varicella Zoster virus which also causes chickenpox.
Following chickenpox infection, the virus lays dormant and emerges many years later, particulalry putting the elderly at risk (Health Promotion Board, Singapore).
Who should get the vaccine? All adults from the age of 50 should get the shingles vaccine. Adults who have not had chickenpox should first get the chickenpox vaccine and, once they turn 50, get the shingles vaccine.
Frequency: Once in adulthood
Cost: About $240 in public hospitals and from $250-$400 in private hospitals
Have you had any of these adult vaccinations? Share your thoughts on adult vaccines with us by leaving a comment!