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October 23, 2014

An Ounce of Prevention: Why Adult Vaccinations Are Important

AdultVaccinations_flyer-1Accessing healthcare is complicated for many people, but LGBT older adults face a specific set of concerns and challenges. For example, according to SAGE’s new report, Out & Visible, 40% of LGBT people in their 60’s and 70’s say their healthcare providers don’t know their sexual orientations—which can lead to poorer health outcomes.

SAGE and Pfizer are collaborating to help improve the health of LGBT older people with a series of “Lunch and Learn” events at the SAGE Center. Our debut event focused on Adult Vaccinations—a critical component to staying healthy. After the event, we chatted with presenter Chris Nguyen, Pharm.D., a pharmacist with Duane Reade specializing in assisting HIV and Hepatitis C patients. Read the interview, and check out our online fact sheet, to learn more!

Thanks for taking the time to talk, Chris! Your presentation prompted a lot of great questions, which was so encouraging. Can we start by talking about why adult vaccinations aren’t as commonly understood as those given to children, and what we can do to change that?

Well, I think we don’t talk about it much in the media because it’s not sensational—Ebola is more sensational! If you are a doctor you’re mostly talking about vaccines to people in the risk groups. It should have more coverage than it does.

Some people don’t believe in vaccinations—there are misconceptions. Your personal belief can be rooted in fact or misconception, so actually convincing the patient is a factor as well.

Big pharmacies help get the word out and they get the communities involved, but even so we need more education along with the promotion -- besides the flu shot because that happens every year. Pharmacists can educate individual patients on the vaccines appropriate for them.

You outlined four key reasons why adult vaccinations are critical, in your presentation. Can you share them?

Well, first, vaccines help prevent morbidity associated with the disease. In some cases these diseases can actually be fatal.

Second, to prevent outbreaks. We don’t have measles and mumps epidemics anymore because we have vaccines. Meningitis is a great example of this, especially among men who have sex with men.

 

Third, it costs much less to prevent a disease than to treat it.

Fourth, to protect the people around you and not just you. If you don’t believe in vaccines, think about the people you love.

Most people are aware of the flu shot, but what are some lesser-known important vaccines?

The meningitis vaccine is an important one recommended to certain populations, particularly men who have sex with men. But one of the most important that’s recommended across the board is the pneumonia vaccine. A new recommendation was released last month which says that people 65+, irregardless of your immune function status or chronic health conditions, should get both available types of vaccine for this disease—Prevnar and Pneumovax.

People who are under 65 and not immunocompromised but have chronic conditions like diabetes, heart disease, asthma, or are smokers, should get just one type of the vaccine for pneumonia—the pneumovax.

What are some special considerations for LGBT older people in terms of getting vaccinated?

As you get older, your immune system will wane. As an LGBT person, you may be at higher risk for some things. For sexually active MSM, the Hepatitis A & B vaccines would be good, as well as the vaccine for meningitis.

LGBT older people have to deal with certain social issues, too, which may reduce adequate access to care, which makes them more vulnerable.

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