Olympic Gold Medalist Mia Hamm Explains Why Adult Vaccines Are Just As Important As Those For Kids

If you thought that vaccines were something you needed only as a kid, think again. An astounding 40,000-50,000 adults die every year as a result of vaccine-preventable diseases. And that number keeps rising. Olympic Gold Medalist and soccer star Mia Hamm has teamed up with Dr. Brad B. Moore for the GlaxoSmithKline-sponsored “Give Your Health A Shot” campaign. The campaign is designed to raise awareness for the necessity of adults to maintain their health and get vaccinated. Hamm and Dr. Moore spoke with Celebrity Parents Magazine about health and why parents should be proactive about getting their vaccines, too.

Vaccinations for children is such a hot button topic. I never realized that adults should receive vaccinations as well.

Dr. Moore: Adults are more likely to die of vaccine-preventable diseases than children are. Each year, there are 40,000-50,000 adult deaths that are preventable if people had gotten appropriate vaccinations. We are trying to raise awareness through the “Give Your Health A Shot” campaign that people need to think about vaccines for themselves, not just for their kids.

Which diseases are preventable through adult vaccinations?

Dr. Moore: There are 13 diseases that we have vaccines to prevent. The first one is influenza, which is your seasonal flu shot. The second one that should be on everyone’s mind is the Pertussis booster. We’re seeing a resurgence in this disease; there’s a Pertussis epidemic in California right now. TDAP is a Pertussis booster along with tetanus and diphtheria; you only need to get one to renew your immunity. Beyond that, there are vaccines for hepatitis, meningitis, and shingles. We want to encourage patients to talk to their doctors to see which vaccines are right for them.

Mia, how did you become involved in the campaign?

Mia: I was approached, and in the beginning, I had the same reaction as you. I thought, “I need to get boosters to get vaccines that I had gotten when I was a kid?” I would get the seasonal flu shot and I thought that was good enough. I was so used to being in a team environment. I had trainers and doctors who I could talk to after practice and say, “Can you take a look at this?” They would take care of me, and now I have to do this on my own like every other mother. I thought this was an important message to get out there. I was educating myself to be a healthy adult and I wanted to help other parents to make sure they were in the best health not only for themselves but their families as well.

Dr. Moore: Just as you think about eating well, and getting enough sleep, this should be right up there as something you think about for keeping you and your family healthy.

What would you say to parents who are reticent to get the vaccine for their kids, much less themselves?

Dr. Moore: Vaccines have been rigorously tested for safety. If you look at the potential side effects of vaccines, they are so much smaller than if you get the disease itself. There’s no reason to be afraid; vaccines are safe, effective and an important part of being healthy.
Mia: From a non-medical perspective, I think it’s important that you can create an open relationship with your doctor. You can go in, sit down and say, “This is where I am with my overall health and these are my concerns. Let’s talk about this.” This way you can reassure yourself that you are both on the same page in regards to your health.

What else have you learned?

Mia: First and foremost, I was always so concerned about my physical well-being. Was I in shape? Was I getting enough sleep? Never did I think about the vaccination side. I never thought about being more proactive in that area. Now as parents, we’re reactive, because we’re so focused on our children and our families. Our health takes a backseat.

As a parent, it always does.

Mia: We need to be there for our kids and make sure that we’re healthy and that we’re setting that good example.
Dr. Moore: Parents need to realize that when they’re getting a vaccine, it’s not just to keep them healthy, but their family as well. Sometimes parents pass these illnesses onto their kids, so you’re really protecting your family by getting immunized as an adult. And there are more adult vaccinations coming. We’re on the verge of a real positive explosion of vaccinations that we can use to treat adult-preventable diseases. We want to get adults thinking about it now so it can become part of their overall lifestyle and to keep not only themselves healthy, but their children as well.

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