Preventing Diseases - Pharmacology

More than 20 infectious diseases in the United States can be prevented by vaccination. Some vaccines are routinely administered to both children and adults. Other vaccines are given under special circumstances to military personnel, travellers whose destination are certain foreign countries, and the chronically ill.

These preventable diseases include adenovirus, cholera, diphtheria, Haemophilusinfluenzaetype b (Hib), hepatitis A, hepatitis B, influenza, Japanese encephalitis, Lyme disease, measles, meningococcal disease, poliomyelitis, rabies, rotavirus, rubella, tetanus, tuberculosis, typhoid, varicella, and yellow fever.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends a schedule for vaccination for children Web site


Adults are frequently overlooked when it comes to vaccination because emphasis is placed on preventing children from developing preventable diseases. However, the CDC suggests adults review their immunizations on decade birthdays (20, 30, 40, 50, and 60).

Adults should also review their immunizations every time they travel to a foreign country regardless of their age. The CDC provides information regarding appropriate immunizations on their Web site (


Biologic products such as vaccines do not undergo the pharmacokinetic process that is associated with other drug therapies. Vaccines are generally safe. Some common mild reactions include swelling at the injection site and fever. Absolute contraindications for the use of vaccines include anaphylactic reaction to a specific vaccine or component of another vaccine or moderate or severe illness.

Healthcare providers are expected to report vaccine adverse events to public health officials who report these to the CDC every week using the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS), which is used to provide compensation for injury and death caused by vaccination.


Patients may not know if they’ve been vaccinated. Therefore, healthcare professionals perform a blood test to determine detectable levels of antibodies in the bloodstream for preventable diseases such as Rubella.

If antibodies are detected in sufficient quantity, then the patient is immune to the disease. If the antibodies are not detected, then the patient needs to be revac-cinated. Healthcare professionals are required to be vaccinated for many common communicable diseases in order to prevent acquiring the disease and passing the disease along to patients.


Here are the steps that should be followed when vaccinating a patient:

  • Obtain immunization history.
  • Obtain medical history of immune deficiency diseases such as malignancy (cancer) or HIV.
  • Obtain pregnancy history and pregnancy test.
  • Obtain drug history including high-dose immunosuppressants, blood transfusions, and immune globulin.
  • Obtain a complete allergy history include drugs, foods, and environmental allergies.
  • Do not administer vaccines to a pregnant patient.
  • Determine if anyone in the patient’s household is not vaccinated or is immunodeficient.
  • Assess for symptoms of moderate to severe acute illness with or without fever.
  • Adhere to storage requirements for the vaccine to ensure its potency.
  • Administer vaccine within stated time limit after preparation.
  • If more than one vaccine is being administered at the same time, use different injection sites.
  • Do not mix vaccines in the same syringe.
  • Observe patient for signs and symptoms of adverse reactions to vaccines.
  • Keep epinephrine available in the case of anaphylactic reaction.
  • Document that a Vaccine Information Statement (VIS) is available from the CDC for each vaccine administered and is provided to the patient/ family. Be sure to include the date of vaccination, route and site, vaccine type, manufacturer, lot number, and expiration date, name, address, and title of individual administering vaccine.
  • Provide patient with a record of immunizations.


Here are facts that patients should know about vaccinations:

  • Explain risk of contracting vaccine-preventable diseases.
  • Female patients of childbearing age must avoid becoming pregnant within a month of receiving the vaccine.
  • Provide the patient or family with current Vaccine Information Statements (VISs) available from CDC for each vaccine administered. Be sure to include the date of vaccination, route and site, vaccine type, manufacturer, lot number, and expiration date, name, address, and title of individual administering vaccine.
  • Remind patient or family to bring the VIS record to all visits.
  • Provide patient or family with date for return for next vaccination.
  • Discuss common side effects of receiving the vaccine.
  • Tell patient or family to contact healthcare provider if they see signs of a serious reaction to the vaccine.


The development of organ transplants which include kidneys, liver, heart, lungs, and pancreas has led to the development of immunosuppressant drugs. These drugs are meant to suppress the body’s natural reaction to reject the foreign protein so the person doesn’t reject the transplanted organ. Some of these drugs include azathioprine (Imuran), cyclosporine (Sandimmune), muromonab-DC3 (Orthoclone OKT3), mycophenolatemofetil (Cell Cept), and tacrolimus (FK506 Prograf).

Some of the side effects of these drugs include nausea and vomiting and an increased risk of tumor growth. Significant leukopenia and thrombocytopenia may occur. These drugs are expensive and must be continued for the life of the patient.

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