Immunization isn’t just for children. Some of those vaccinations you may have had as a child can wear off over time, becoming less effective. You may need additional vaccinations if you’re traveling to a different country for work or vacation, if you’re going to be around young children who may not yet be immunized, or if you have certain health conditions. As new vaccinations are developed, you can protect yourself from additional illnesses. In addition, with age, your immune system becomes weaker, and complications from illnesses can be more serious.
Keeping up-to-date on your immunizations can help keep you healthier and can prevent spreading diseases to those around you. Your healthcare professional may recommend specific immunizations based on your individual health conditions and needs.
For most adults, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends these vaccines:
- Influenza (flu) vaccine: All adults should get a flu shot each year. Although the shot does not provide 100 percent protection, it cuts the risk of getting the flu by 40 – 60 percent. Because each year’s strain of flu is different, you need a new vaccine that has been developed to address that year’s particular strain. The 2017-2018 flu season was one of the worst in the last decade. Because older adults may have a weaker immune system, they can be more susceptible to the flu and further complications.
- Tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis (Tdap or Td): This combination vaccination protects against the bacterial infection that causes lockjaw as well as diphtheria (a respiratory infection) and whooping cough. You may have had the shot as a child, but protection fades over time. You only need the Tdap once, but you should have the Td booster dose every 10 years.
- Chickenpox: Although chickenpox may seem more like a nuisance childhood illness, it can be serious, particularly for adults with complications such as dehydration, pneumonia, bloodstream infections, toxic shock syndrome and brain infection or inflammation. If you have not had chickenpox, you should get the vaccine.
- Shingles: If you have had chickenpox, the virus can remain dormant for years, reactivating later in life to cause shingles. Outbreaks of shingles, with its itchy rash and possible nerve damage, can reoccur. About 1 in 3 adults will develop shingles during their lifetime, with the odds increasing as you age. The CDC recommends the shingles vaccine for adults 50 and older.
- Pneumococcal vaccine: Recommended for adults 65 plus, the pneumococcal vaccine helps prevent the infection that causes pneumonia, meningitis and the bloodstream infection sepsis. Pneumococcal infections can escalate quickly and can have long-term complications including hearing loss, seizures, blindness and heart problems. The vaccine also is recommended for adults under 65 who smoke or have asthma, diabetes or other immune problems.
- MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella): For adults born in 1957 or later, the CDC recommends the MMR if you have not yet received it. Measles, mumps and rubella are rare in the United States since many people have been immunized, but these diseases can be contagious and lead to complications such as pneumonia and brain inflammation. If a pregnant woman gets rubella during pregnancy, her baby is at risk of developing serious birth defects.
- HPV: Young adults, especially women aged 19 to 26 and men aged 19 to 21 should get the vaccine to guard against the human papillomavirus, a very common virus, infecting one in four people in the United States. Although most people with HPV will not develop health problems, HPV can cause certain cancers and other diseases.
In addition to these vaccinations, the CDC recommends talking with your doctor about the meningococcal vaccine to guard against meningitis (a bacterial or viral infection that causes an inflammation of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord) and Hepatitis A and B (communicable diseases affecting the liver).
Are you up-to-date on your immunizations? Talk with your doctor to find out if you need any additional vaccines and make an appointment for fall to get your annual flu shot — flu season will be here before you know it!
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