The full text of an adage we already know can be traced to Benjamin Franklin: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” In the case of what we’re talking about today, those crucial little ounces of prevention can come in the form of vaccines, defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as “a biological preparation that improves immunity to a particular disease.”
Vaccines work by “training” the immune system to recognize and respond to the presence of pathogens. They contain an agent resembling a disease-causing microorganism, which is typically synthesized from dead or weakened forms of the pathogen—or parts of if like its surface proteins or a toxin that it produces. When the body recognizes the agent as a foreign invader, it produces antibodies that destroys the agent and “remembers” it. This process allows the body’s immune system to more easily recognize the diseases when actual microorganisms attack in the future.
Ordinary Juans like us really should get vaccinated in order to achieve the following: (1) avoid specific diseases; (2) decrease the risk of getting sick from exposure in work or home environments; and (3) cut down on sick leaves, absenteeism, and a general fear of missing out on gimiks, milestone events involving our family and friends, and the like.
Sounds simple enough, but admittedly there’s a lot more that people need to learn about vaccines, what vaccination programs have accomplished over the years, and who’ll need which particular kind of shots. Thus, we’re featuring this guide on vaccines, which will helpfully fill you in on different vaccine types and which vaccines would be ideal for this stage in your life.
Some Important Notes on Vaccination
The modern world credits vaccines for completely eradicating smallpox, drastically reducing the incidence of polio worldwide by 99%, and controlling measles in the Americas and Europe, as well as drastically increasing measles incidence by 91% in African nations.
During the Philippine Foundation for Vaccination’s (PFV) 2018 Vaccine Workshop, Dr. Salvacion R. Gatchalian, Associate Professor at the UP College of Medicine (UPCM), brought these statistics to light. In her lecture “Delivering Wellness: The Value of Vaccines,” Dr. Gatchalian presented vaccines as “one of the best bargains in medicine,” with individual, societal, and economic impacts on public health on a considerable scale. These positive impacts range from a decrease in hospitalization incidence and a decrease in need for expensive treatments all the way to the reduction of mass outbreaks of deadly diseases.
“With the exception of clean drinking water, vaccines are the most effective intervention in reducing and preventing the return of infectious diseases,” said Dr. Gatchalian.
In another lecture at the same conference, titled “Regulations and Procedures for Drug/Vaccine Applications,” UPCM’s Special Assistant to the Dean and College Secretary, Dr. Francisco P. Tranquilino, further asserted that the vaccines distributed in the Philippines’ national immunization programs (NIPs) are safe and effective. However, Dr. Tranquilino added that Filipinos must know that vaccines themselves are not risk-free and do not 100% eliminate the chance of acquiring diseases. Adverse events following immunization (AEFI) may happen, although as per the WHO’s classification of AEFIs, they may not necessarily have a causal relationship with the usage of the vaccine. Nevertheless, public trust in vaccine safety is vital to the success of vaccination programs.
Dr. Tranquilino also stated that the expectation for vaccines to follow a safety standard is higher than that of medicines for sick people. The country’s national regulatory authorities (NRAs) enact a rigorous testing procedure for each vaccine. These vaccines are thoroughly and continuously reviewed by NRAs, monitored and investigated for their AEFIs to ensure safety for the population, and assessed in clinical trials before they’re introduced to the public.
Understandably, Filipinos’ public trust in vaccination was shaken up after the country’s Dengvaxia scare. But, as Dr. Tranquilino noted, media coverage also runs the risk of having blinders on for AEFIs and reducing publicity in vaccine coverage otherwise. As a result, the focus shifts onto the vaccine, and drawn away from the actual disease the vaccine is supposed to prevent.
Five Recommended Vaccines for Adult Immunization
And so, for the sake of balanced perspective and to give due attention to the risks that certain diseases pose to Filipino men, we’ve compiled this list of details on five recommended vaccines. This list draws from reputable sources like PFV’s Adult Immunization Recommendation of 2017. To learn more about the conditions that each vaccine is meant to treat, you can check the supplied links and do further research online.
1. VACCINE FOR HUMAN PAPILLOMAVIRUS (HPV)
What It Combats: This vaccine combats the spread of HPV, named for the papillomas (warts) that some variations of the virus can cause. An individual can incur HPV from a partner infected by the virus through intimate skin-to-skin contact, such as through vaginal or oral sex. Though HPV can go away on its own, it also comes with the risk of getting cancer of the mouth, throat, anus, rectum—and for men, penile HPV cancer. Thus, at this point in your adult life, you should be getting vaccinated to avoid getting HPV.
Who Should Take the Vaccine? The vaccine can be administered to immunocompetent adult males (those who have normal immune response) who are 26 years old and younger. Even men who aren’t sexually active yet stand to benefit from getting an HPV vaccine. In fact, the vaccine may work best for men who have not yet had sexual contact with anyone. If they haven’t been exposed to the virus yet, they’ll have higher immunity against it if they get vaccinated.
Details on Dosage: The HPV vaccine will be administered in three doses: a beginning dose of 0.5ml, then another dose after 1-2 months, then another after 6 months.
Possible Side Effects to Prepare For: Those newly vaccinated might experience pain, redness, or swelling in the arm where the shot was administered, as well as fever, headache, nausea, or muscle and joint pain.
2. VACCINE FOR INFLUENZA
What It Combats: This vaccine combats influenza, or the flu. Flu should not be taken lightly, as every seasonal bout of the flu is different in terms of strains and strength. Thousands of people could get infected by the flu, and just incurring it could complicate already delicate health conditions among the sickly and the elderly. Administering the flu vaccine will help develop antibodies that protect against flu infection, and consequently the risk of hospitalization.
Who Should Take the Vaccine? This vaccine can be administered to immunocompetent men, and will be a boon to adult males who suffer bronchial asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), cardiovascular diseases, and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
Details on Dosage: A single standard or high dose of trivalent or quadrivalent flu shot is all that is needed.
Possible Side Effects to Prepare For: Newly vaccinated patients might experience soreness or redness in the area where they received the shot, as well fever, nausea, headache, or muscle ache.
3. VACCINE FOR MEASLES, MUMPS, AND RUBELLA (MMR)
What It Combats: This vaccine serves as protection against measles, mumps, and rubella. The measles virus is highly contagious and can be spread by coughing and sneezing; the mumps virus can reproduce in the upper respiratory tract and spread through mucus and saliva; and rubella, or German measles, is known to give adults more complications that it does to children. If you receive an MMR vaccine, you’ll be better equipped against the complications that arise from these three diseases, which may include pneumonia, meningitis, deafness, and swelling in the neck glands, behind the ears, or even in the testicles.
Who Should Take the Vaccine? Adult males who have not yet received complete MMR vaccination during childhood should get an MRR vaccine. Those that are at high risk of infection from being in schools and healthcare institutions, or are traveling to countries that have low vaccination coverage should also get the vaccine.
Details on Dosage: The MMR vaccine can be administered to recipients in 1-2 doses, given at least 28 days apart from each other.
Possible Side Effects to Prepare For: Those newly vaccinated may experience fever, mild rashes, or swelling of glands in the cheeks or neck.
4. VACCINE FOR TETANUS, DIPHTHERIA, AND ACELLULAR PERTUSSIS (TDAP)
What It Combats: The TDAP vaccine will protect recipients from the three bacterial diseases of diphtheria, tetanus, and acellular pertussis. You would not want to experience any of these, as diphtheria may cause breathing problems, paralysis, and heart failure; tetanus or lockjaw can cause painful tightening of your body’s muscles; and pertussis, or whooping cough, is highly contagious and puts infants and young children at special risk. If you’re always around kids, you should get the TDAP vaccine.
Who Should Take the Vaccine? Adults from 19 to 64 years old who have not had a vaccination in more than 10 years, as well as adults in close contact with infants less than 12 months old, should receive the TDAP vaccine.
Details on Dosage: Recipients will be given a complete 3-dose series of this vaccine, with the first and second dose spaced apart by 4-8 weeks and the last dose given 6-12 months after.
Possible Side Effects to Prepare For: Those who receive the TDAP vaccine may need to deal with side effects like fever, headache, redness or swelling, stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
5. VACCINE FOR HEPATITIS A
What It Combats: This vaccine protects against hepatitis A, a serious liver disease caused by the hepatitis A virus. One can get infected by the virus by means of contaminated food, water, or objects. It can also spread from person to person due to poor hygiene or improper handwashing habits. Hepatitis A could lead to severe stomach pain, jaundice, and liver failure. As such, the hepatitis A vaccine works alongside good hygiene in protecting people from hepatitis A.
Who Should Take the Vaccine? The vaccine can be administered to immunocompetent male adults. Those who will be traveling to countries where hepatitis A is prevalent should also take the vaccine.
Details on Dosage: This vaccine comes in two doses: a single dose that may be administered any time, and a booster dose after 6-12 months. Vaccination can also be done on travelers at least 1 month before departure.
Possible Side Effects to Prepare For: Those who receive this vaccine may suffer mild fever, nausea, loss of appetite, or redness and swelling in the arm where the shot is administered.
Ultimately, vaccines will be an important investment for better health—and this involves not only your health, but the health of your loved ones and those around you. Think of yourself as part of an equation for health that affects everyone: a healthy, vaccinated person means less risk of disease on the individual, which, in turn, means less risk of disease spreading to others and being less of a burden on one’s community. That is what’s meant by the statement “herd immunity leads to global protection.”
When in doubt, contact your local health center and hospital about their individual adult immunization programs. Afterwards, make a timetable of when your first, second, and possibly third round of shots will take place. And of course, stay healthy by exercising regularly, eating a nutritious diet, observing proper hygiene and sanitation habits, and taking medication when your doctor tells you to. Best of luck!