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Immunizations – They’re not just for kids!

In a recent survey of dialysis patients, it was noted the number one reason why dialysis patients are not immunized is due to lack of understanding of the immunization process. Many people think immunizations are just for kids? However the facts are clear, infection is the second leading cause of death for hemodialysis patients. Immunizations can and do help protect you and your loved ones against certain infections. Let’s explore the facts about influenza, hepatitis B and pneumococcal immunizations and then you make the decision!

Influenza Facts (the FLU Shot)

Fact #1: The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by the influenza virus.
Fact #2: Each year over 36,000 people in the United States die because of the flu – most are over 65 years of age.
Fact #3: You can not get the flu from the flu shot!
Fact #4: As a dialysis patient you have a greater chance of developing serious problems from the flu and are considered a priority group for the vaccine.
Fact #5: You have to get the flu shot each flu season (one time a year).

DECISION TIME: Based on these facts, should you get the flu shot?  Yes!

Pneumococcal (pneumonia) Facts

Fact #1: About one out of every 20 people who get pneumonia dies from the disease.
Fact #2: Pneumococcal disease kills more people in the United States than all other vaccine-preventable diseases combined.
Fact #3: You can not get pneumonia from the pneumonia shot!
Fact #4: The pneumonia shot can be given ANY time of year.

DECISION TIME: Based on these facts, should you get the pneumonia vaccine?  Yes!

Hepatitis B Facts

Fact #1: Hemodialysis patients are at an increased risk of hepatitis B viral infection.
Fact #2: Hepatitis B vaccines can prevent hepatitis B and also protects against a form of liver cancer.
Fact #3: Hepatitis B vaccine is safe, effective and your best protection against the virus.
Fact #4: Hepatitis B vaccine comes in a series of shots.

DECISION TIME: Based on these facts, should you get the hepatitis B vaccine?  Yes!

As a dialysis patient you should protect yourself and your health. Vaccines are a quick, easy and effective way of STAYING healthy. They are not just for kids! They are for YOU!

Checklist for Immunizations:

The following checklist will help you determine if you need any vaccines. If you answer yes to any of the questions then talk to your dialysis facility staff about vaccinations.

Influenza vaccination (Flu Shot)

¤ I’d like to be vaccinated to avoid getting flu and spreading it to others.
¤ I am age 50 or older.
¤ I have end stage renal disease (ESRD).
¤ I live with or provide care for a child younger than age five.
¤ I am younger than age 50 and have an ongoing health problem, such as lung, heart, kidney, liver, or blood disease; diabetes; HIV/AIDS; a disease that affects my immune system; a neurologic condition; or a health condition that may cause me to choke when I swallow.
¤ I live with or provide care for an adult age 50 or older who has one of the health conditions described above.
¤ I live in a nursing home or chronic care facility.

Pneumococcal (pneumonia) vaccination

¤ I am age 65 or older, and I have never had a pneumococcal shot.
¤ I am age 65 or older and had one pneumococcal shot when I was younger than age 65; it has been five years or more since that shot.
¤ I am younger than age 65, I have not been vaccinated against pneumococcal disease, and at least one of the following applies to me:
• I have heart, lung (including asthma), liver, kidney, or sickle cell disease; diabetes; or alcoholism.
• I have a weakened immune system due to cancer, Hodgkin’s disease, leukemia, lymphoma, multiple myeloma, kidney failure, HIV/AIDS.
• I am receiving radiation therapy.
• I am on medication that suppresses my immune system.
• I have had an organ or bone marrow transplant.

Hepatitis B vaccination

¤ I am or will be on kidney dialysis.
¤ I want to be vaccinated to avoid getting hepatitis B and spreading it to others.
¤ I am age 18 or younger and haven’t completed the series of hepatitis B shots.
¤ I was vaccinated with hepatitis B vaccine in the past but never completed the full three-dose series.
¤ I am sexually active and am not in a long-term, mutually monogamous relationship.
¤ I am an immigrant, or my parents are immigrants from an area of the world where hepatitis B is common.
¤ I live with or am a sex partner of a person with hepatitis B.
¤ I have been diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease (STD).
¤ I have been diagnosed with HIV.
¤ I inject street drugs.
¤ I have chronic liver disease.
¤ I am a health care or public safety worker who is exposed to blood or other bodily fluids.
¤ I provide direct services for people with developmental disabilities.
¤ I travel outside the U.S.

The My Health Record section of the AAKP My Health website allows you to keep a complete list of your immunization records. For more information, visit www.aakp.org/my-health.

Leighann Sauls, RN, CDN, is the Director of Quality Improvement for the Southeastern Kidney Council (ESRD Network 6). She designs and implements quality improvement projects and activities as required by the Network contract, including assistance to facility staff in implementation of internal quality improvement programs, and develoment of educational materials and workshops. Ms. Sauls leads the Safe and Timely Immunization Coalition which focuses on increasing the rate of Hepatitis B, Influenza and Pneumococcal immunizations in dialysis patients and facility staff in ESRD Network 6; therefore, decreasing morbidity and mortality associated with these diseases. She is the primary liasion for the Medical Review Board, which coordinates quality improvement project initiatives and oversees resolution of patient complaints and grievances.

This article originally appeared in the September 2010 issue of aakpRENALIFE.