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In the News

Adult Vaccination – Arm Yourself

By Dr. Victor Gong, Medical Director of 75th St. & 126th St. Medical, Ocean Pines Medical & Doctors Weight Control & Wellness centers, Ocean City, MD.

Most elementary schools require proof of vaccination for children entering first grade. That's all fine and good if you're a first-grader, but do you remember when you had your last vaccination against tetanus? Diphtheria? Measles? Rubella? Mumps? Hepatitis B?

Vaccines are the most effective way to fight infectious diseases because they teach the body's immune system to recognize the shapes of the proteins of different organisms and viruses. Every one of the 100,000 different proteins that make up the human body has a unique form that is recognized as belonging in the body. Infectious organisms have different shapes and can be identified as "intruders." White blood cells confirm whether the "alien" belongs, and, if not, signals the immune system to attack.

However, many of our immune systems aren't able to "attack" simply because we aren't keeping up with our shots. Not every adult, unlike every child, needs every shot, so adults are harder to target. Your medical records might not give the full picture either, as you may have gotten a shot in the emergency room several years ago and never had it documented in your physician's office. Besides, many of us are just as scared of shots as we were when we were kids, except now we don't have anyone (i.e., the school board) making us get them. But the statistics do add up: Nearly 1,000 cases of measles were reported to the centers for disease control and prevention, while another seven million young adults may be vulnerable to measles, mumps, and rubella. Meanwhile, influenza viruses kill a estimated 40,000 people every year (nearly all over age 65) and another 80,000 people die from pneumonia. In fact, many cancer, stroke, heart and lung patients actually die of pneumonia or its complications rather than the disease itself.

Obviously it's important to keep up to date with your vaccinations, not only to prevent disease, but to save money, too. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, it is estimated that for every dollar spent on immunization, $10 to $14 will be saved by preventing disease in the future.

If you can't find proof of your latest vaccinations by looking through personal records and medical histories, you can have a blood test that will show whether you carry antibodies to viruses like measles, mumps, and rubella. But there's no harm in having the shots again. Plus, it's not as bad as it sounds: you can be inoculated against these three, and two other diseases through just two shots.

If your scared, just look away. After all, kids do it all the time.

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