Vaccination for Adults

When you are a child, quite often you don’t have a choice. You have to get immunized against various disabling and life threatening illnesses. When you become an adult, you are too busy making a living and raising a family. You don’t think about immunization unless somebody reminds you or if you have to travel outside the country.

A website on immunization says, “Getting immunized is a lifelong, life-protecting job. You’re never too old to get immunized.”

There is a long list of adult immunization vaccines. Here is the list – influenza, Pneumococcal, tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis (Td, Tdap), hepatitis B (HepB), hepatitis A (HepA), human papillomavirus (HPV), measles, mumps, rubella (MMR), varicella (Chickenpox), meningococcal and zoster (shingles). For more information you should talk to somebody in the health unit or visit www.vaccineinformation.org

If you are planning to travel outside Canada, then your need for vaccination will depend on your destination and environmental conditions prevalent in that part of the world. The standard of hygiene, the quality of food and water will determine what kind of illness is prevalent in that country. At home or in foreign countries careful selection and handling of food and water will prevent many illnesses.

You should consult your local health unit three months before your date of travel to get all the information about your vaccination needs. This will give you enough time to complete the immunization schedule. A listing of travel clinics across Canada can be found at the Public Health Agency of Canada’s Travel Medicine Program at www.travelhealth.gc.ca.

It is estimated that two million Canadians will travel this year to developing countries. Many of these Canadians will be returning to their land of origin to meet friends and families. Many Canadians go overseas as volunteers to the world’s poorest people to help build houses or work in their hospitals or orphanages.

Studies have shown that 75 per cent of people who go abroad develop some kind of travel-related illnesses affecting their stomach or bowel, dengue fever, malaria and typhoid fever. These are just a few examples. It is also unfortunate that only 15 per cent of international travelers visit travel health clinics before they go abroad. Why?

Cost of vaccinations is one of the main reasons why many people avoid immunization. An article in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) says that a family of four going to a yellow fever zone in West Africa for one month would need to spend at least $1900 on vaccines alone. So what happens? Eighty five per cent of travelers avoid spending that kind of money. Hence they return to Canada with travel-related illnesses. The cost of treating these patients in our health care institutions costs millions of dollars. Would it be cheaper for provincial governments to provide vaccinations free? That is a question that needs to be considered by the provincial governments. In the mean time if you are planning to go abroad, make sure you budget for travel related vaccinations.

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