Monday, December 12, 2011

Are you protected?

New survey shows that adult Canadians are unaware of how vaccines can help protect against serious diseases

TORONTO, December 12, 2011 /Canada NewsWire/ - A new survey conducted by Angus Reid Public Opinion, a division of Vision Critical, reveals that adult vaccinations are not on the radar of most Canadians and that many Canadians are unaware that some serious diseases can be prevented through routine adult vaccinations. Despite the benefits of vaccines for the good of society, only about half of those surveyed (55%) feel that it is critical to keep up-to-date with their vaccinations and even less (46%) feel vaccines are as important as diet and exercise in maintaining their overall health.1

"Parents are advised of the benefits of vaccinations for their children, but adults don't generally think about vaccines for themselves," says Dr. Vivien Brown, family physician from the University of Toronto. "Adults, especially individuals over 65, or those who have underlying medical conditions, should consider vaccinations as an important component of their overall health management, alongside diet and exercise."

According to the Canada-wide survey, very few (16%) of Canadians aged 45 to 74 feel that they know a lot about adult vaccination and only two-in-five (41%) report ever speaking with a doctor about them. Even more astonishing is that when asked about pneumococcal disease, almost half of Canadians surveyed don't know what adult vaccines they need to protect themselves against this disease, despite how serious it is.2

"I am 65 and I have had pneumococcal pneumonia several times," says Deborah Douglas, patient from Toronto, Ontario. "Two winters ago I was deathly ill and was hospitalized for weeks with pneumonia. This was the first time I had heard of this disease - I had no idea I was at risk because of age and my diagnosed weak immune system. I was not aware there were adult vaccines options to help protect me."

The most common form of pneumococcal disease in adults is pneumonia. In Canada, pneumonia and influenza were the eighth leading cause of death in 2006, according to Statistics Canada. Not surprising, only 55 per cent of Canadians surveyed knew that pneumococcal disease is a serious illness that can cause hospitalization and death, 67 per cent5 reported that they had not been or were unsure if they had been vaccinated against pneumococcal disease, and 29 per cent reported that they had never heard of the disease. Lack of familiarity with the vaccine (49%) is the most commonly reported reason for not getting vaccinated among those who have not been vaccinated against pneumococcal disease.6 The seasonal flu and H1N1 vaccines do not protect Canadians against pneumococcal disease. Confusion is common since it is not always clear what these vaccines protect you against.

Being able to diagnose and treat pneumococcal disease quickly will help reduce the severity, duration and potential long-term complications. The signs and symptoms of pneumococcal disease vary depending on severity and can include; fever, shaking, chills, headache, productive cough, muscle pain and weakness.7

"Although pneumococcal disease can affect people at any age, older adults and children have a higher risk of contracting the disease than others," says Dr. Brown. "If you are 65 years of age or older, or have underlying medical conditions, such as a suppressed immune system due to treatment or illness, chronic heart, liver or kidney disease, or diabetes, speak to your doctor about pneumococcal disease vaccination and other adult vaccines that are right for you."

While vaccines are an important element that works with your immune system to help ensure serious diseases are prevented; many people are not aware that childhood immunization does not provide lifelong immunity against some diseases, such as pneumococcal disease (pneumonia, meningitis, sepsis, bacteraemia).

Vaccination can help prevent pneumococcal disease; however, it is also important to live a healthy lifestyle, especially as you get older. Below are some tips that can help you live life to its fullest:

...Eat well.
...Be active and include others in your activities.
...Get enough sleep.
...Don't forget to take your medication(s) regularly.
...Talk to your doctor on a regular basis and don't skip your check-ups.
...Talk to your loved ones or caregiver about how you're feeling. It's important to let others know if you aren't feeling well. They can help determine if you need to seek medical advice.

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