More often than not, parents put their children before themselves. When you become a parent, your own wants and needs take a back seat almost immediately. However, think about the last time you took a flight – as the captain prepared for takeoff and the flight attendant gave the mandatory “safety information” speech, you probably heard these instructions: “If you are traveling with a child, apply your own oxygen mask before assisting the child.” I’m no aviation expert, but I believe this is recommended because if the adults do not apply their oxygen first, they physically will not be able to help the child next to them. There are times that we (as parents) have to focus on ourselves in order to protect our children and others around us. Getting vaccinated as an adult is a prime example.
A couple of years ago (before I had a baby and received a Tdap vaccine in the hospital), I visited a new family practice physician for a checkup. She asked me if I’d had a tetanus vaccine recently…and I had no idea. Vaccinations weren’t really on my radar at that time, but the question got me thinking: as adults – have we focused so much on children’s vaccinations that we forget about vaccinating ourselves?
When you dig a little deeper, the statistics are somewhat alarming. For adults over 19 years of age, Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis) vaccinations rates for adults were only 14.2% in 2012. And only 25.9% of adults living with an infant under a year old (those most at risk for being hospitalized or worse due to pertussis) were immunized. With pertussis on the rise, these rates are very scary.
When it comes to the flu vaccine, only about 1 out of every 3 adults under 50 get it every year. I know several friends who haven’t gotten the flu vaccine in years past – either because they think it doesn’t work (it does), or they simply don’t take the time. I’ve learned – especially as a parent of a young child –that getting immunized against the flu every year is SO important. Why? Because thousands of adults and children lose their lives every year to the flu and pneumonia. Roughly 500,000 Americans cannot be vaccinated because they’re immune systems are compromised – perhaps they’re undergoing chemotherapy treatment or receiving immunosuppressants. When you choose not to be vaccinated as a healthy adult, you run the risk of infecting those around you who cannot be immunized. These individuals rely on the rest of us to protect them.
So the next time you contemplate the flu shot, or you’re not sure if you’ve been immunized against tetanus and pertussis, remember the airplane/oxygen mask analogy. Take a responsible stance and ensure you are vaccinated so others around you may remain healthy.
To read a compelling OpEd about the power of immunizations, click here. And if you’re interested in learning what influenza vaccination rates are in your area, check out FluVaxView for more information.