This article appeared in The Columbus Dispatch. Read the full story here.
Tony Sanfilippo was in the shower earlier this year when he got quite a shock.
It had nothing to do with water temperature, but rather a story he just happened to hear at the time on National Public Radio.
“They were talking about if you were born in the period between 1963 and 1967, the measles vaccine you got as a child might not be effective,” Sanfilippo said. “I was born in 1964, and I was like, `Hey, that’s me they’re talking about.’”
Alarmed, the 55-year-old Bexley resident contacted his doctor, and they agreed he might benefit from getting a measles shot, which he did. It is given in combination with mumps and rubella vaccines and known as the MMR vaccine.
Sanfilippo had a right to be worried, as the United States has experienced a measles outbreak this year, with more cases reported — 1,148 as of July 18 — than in any year since 1992.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta declared the disease eliminated nationally in 2000.
But measles is not the only disease for which adults need to make sure they are properly vaccinated. Depending on a person’s age, occupation and other risk factors, the CDC recommends a half-dozen or more vaccines.
It is a subject that is not getting enough attention, doctors say.
“It’s sort of the `ugly duckling’ of health care,” said Joseph Gastaldo, an infectious disease specialist with OhioHealth. “Everybody is worried about cancer or cardiovascular disease, and adult vaccines are not emphasized enough.”
Columbus Health Commissioner Dr. Mysheika Williams Roberts said vaccines are “not just for babies, not just for children. It’s really a whole-life continuum.”
According to the CDC, vaccines recommended for all ages include an annual flu shot and a Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis) booster once every 10 years.
The CDC also recommends the human papillomavirus (HPV) for those up to age 26. Gastaldo pointed out that the Food and Drug Administration in 2018 approved the HPV vaccine for those up to age 45.
Adults age 65 and older should be vaccinated against pneumococcal infections of the lungs and bloodstream, according to the CDC.
And those 50 and over should get the shingles vaccine.
“If you had chicken pox as a kid, the virus stays in you the rest of your life,” Gastaldo said. “And as you get older, for reasons we don’t know, the virus can reactivate and you get shingles.
“Shingles is not a disease to blow off: It can affect your eyes and your ears, and even after it goes away, residual pain can stick around a long time.”
Roberts said the only people who should not be vaccinated are those with severely compromised immune systems, because they might not be able to handle the small amounts of live virus in many vaccines.
Because of the recent outbreak of measles, the MMR vaccine is the one garnering the most attention.
It has raised fears that, because some parents are choosing not to get their children vaccinated, the nation could lose its “herd immunity” to certain diseases. That immunity is reached when a high percentage of people are vaccinated (for measles, the threshold is 93% to 95%).
In its most recent annual report, in 2018, the CDC said overall vaccination rates remained “high and stable,” but did note that the percentage of kids born in 2015 not receiving vaccines reached 1.3%, compared with 0.3% among young children surveyed in 2001.
“The World Health Organization is on the verge of taking us off the list of countries that have eradicated measles, and that’s embarrassing to us as a country,” Gastaldo said.