The vaccination debate is always floating around in parenting circles but did you know that most adults may need a few important vaccines as well?
Vaccines are necessary throughout our lives. Adults should keep their vaccinations up to date because immunity from childhood vaccines may wear off over the years. Other factors that can influence the need for different vaccines in adults include the individual’s underlying health conditions, lifestyle, living environments and travel habits.
People with specialized occupations should also consider their vaccination schedules. Healthcare professionals, teachers or child care workers, nursing home staff, and other caretakers are encouraged to keep their vaccinations up to date, not only for themselves but to protect those they serve.
Dr. Joseph Hobbs, Chair of the Augusta University Health Family Medicine Department, recommends discussing these 7 vaccines with your doctor:
- Td/Tdap: The Td/dap vaccine is a combination vaccine that protects against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis. People usually get this vaccination when they’re young but booster shots are needed every 10 years to continue the vaccine’s protection. If you get injured, by a burn or open wound, your doctor may recommend a booster shot. Or if you’re expecting a new baby, your doctor may recommend a booster shot to protect against being a carrier of pertussis, the virus that causes whooping cough in young children.
- Varicella: Commonly known as the chickenpox, babies usually receive the varicella vaccination between 12 and 15 months. If you had the chicken pox when you were a kid, your body has probably built an immunity against the virus. While it’s rare to get the chickenpox twice, booster shots may be necessary for specific situations like weakened immune systems or recent exposure to someone with the chickenpox or shingles.
- Zoster: Think of shingles as the chickenpox’s older, much uglier, brother. Shingles is a reactivation of the chickenpox that causes a painful, blistering rash. Both shingles and the chicken pox are caused by the same virus, except while the chickenpox typically affects children, shingles affect people 60 years or older. Even if you have already developed shingles, the Zoster vaccine may prevent future occurrences. Dr. Hobbs says to always ask about updated vaccines, “Even if you have had a series of Shingles vaccines, you should inquire about the need to have an additional series of the newest form of the vaccine.”
- MMR: Another combination vaccine, the MMR vaccine protects against measles, mumps and rubella. Immunizations usually start during childhood but adults should confirm their immunity if they have no record of vaccination and can’t remember. Most colleges and universities require an MMR vaccination, or evidence of it, prior to attendance. Also, women who are family planning should confirm their immunity with their doctor as the rubella virus can be harmful to unborn children.
- Pneumococcal conjugate: If you’re over 65 or have certain medical conditions before age 65, ask your doctor about the Pneumococcal vaccination. While most people think of pneumonia, the Pneumococcal vaccine can protect against meningitis, bacteremia (a bloodstream infection), and other infections caused by the Streptococcus pneumoniae. “There are currently two types of Pneumococcal vaccines, PCV13 and PPSV23,” says Dr. Hobbs.
- HPV: The HPV vaccine protects against cancers, mainly cervical cancer, caused by an HPV infection. Vaccinations are recommended to begin early in teenage boys and girls, but young adults through the age of 26 can still receive it.
- Meningococcal: The Meningococcal vaccine is usually given to preteens with a booster at age 16. However, the booster shot can be given up to age 23. Your doctor may also recommend the Serogroup B meningococcal vaccine for adults who have weakened immune systems, comprised spleen health, live in communal settings like dorms or hostels, or who travel abroad.
“Immunizations have proven to be very safe, and they are widely available. I recommend asking your primary care doctor about what vaccines you need to promote better health and prevent communicable diseases,” says Dr. Jose Vazquez, Chief of Infectious Diseases at Augusta University Medical Center.
When you’re talking to your doctor about outdated immunizations or booster shots, always ask whether a vaccine would be appropriate for you. People with certain allergies, weakened immune systems due to cancer treatments or HIV/AIDs, or pregnant women should not be immunized with certain vaccines.