Which vaccines do adults need and when?

vaccine_bloglargeMost parents are pretty diligent about getting their children vaccinated on the proper schedule. It’s when we become teens and adults that we tend to forget about the vaccines that continue to protect our health as we age.

A yearly physical with your doctor is the perfect time to review your vaccine history. If you are at higher risk due to certain chronic conditions such as heart disease or diabetes, you may discuss this more frequently during follow-up visits.

In general, here are the vaccines most adults should keep up-to-date:

Flu vaccine: It’s important to get this every year because the strain changes. While it’s never 100% effective, the vaccine does reduce the severity of the flu if you get it, and it can prevent hospitalization and death from the disease.

Pertussis (whooping cough):  This is combined as the Tdap vaccine that protects against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis. After the initial Tdap, everyone should have a tetanus booster every 10 years.  Pregnant women and anyone who will be in close contact with a newborn should get the Tdap. Infants carry antibodies from their mother for the first six months, then their immunity begins to wane.

Shingles: This one is a hot topic. The Food and Drug Administration has approved it for anyone over age 50, but most insurances don’t cover until age 60 and older, which is when the Centers for Disease Control recommends having it. This vaccine is recommended whether you previously had chicken pox or not. However, because it’s a live vaccine, it could cause shingles in anyone with a compromised immune system, so discuss with your doctor.

Pneumonia: This vaccine is recommended for people of any age who smoke or have a compromised immune system and everyone starting at age 65. There are two versions so talk with your doctor about which one is best for you.

Human papillomavirus (HPV): Young people should get this beginning at age 11 or 12 to reduce the risk of several cancers. This vaccine is given in two to three doses. 

Meningococcal vaccine: All 11-to-12-year olds should get the conjugate vaccine, with a booster at age 16. Those ages 16 to 23 may also get a serogroup B meningococcal vaccine.
 
Hepatitis A & B: These viruses can affect anyone, however certain people are more at risk. Those in the food industry or who have a compromised immune system or other risk factors should discuss these vaccines with their doctor.
 
MMR: The measles, mumps, rubella vaccine is given to children and it’s important for people in the healthcare industry to stay up to date. 
It’s important to remember that these vaccines do more than protect your health.
People who are young and healthy can carry a disease without getting sick and then spread it to others at work, school or in the family who are more vulnerable. As more people get vaccinated properly in a community, the healthier that community becomes overall. We refer to this as herd immunity.
 
If you have a fear of injections or vaccines in general, talk with your doctor. I tell my patients that I get the flu shot every year. My kids get it. We take the same one everyone else does. In fact, I sometimes take my vaccine with a patient to help alleviate their fears and show them this is something I truly believe in.
 
Scientists have painstakingly conducted research and developed vaccine recommendations from studies and facts, not feelings. I encourage my patients to learn about vaccines from credible medical resources such as the CDC or Medscape, and to ask me any questions they have.
 
While vaccines might be unpopular and easy to let go, they are important to keep you and those close to you healthy.
 

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