From the moment a baby is born, pediatricians discuss with parents a suggested vaccination schedule that can help their children stay healthy, prevent disease from spreading, and meet requirements for day-care centers and schools.
But are you up on the vaccination schedule for adults? Community health expert Dr. Nancy Bennett shares the reasons everyone needs to stay on top of their vaccines in order to keep themselves healthy.
Vaccines are recommended throughout your life. Even if you were fully vaccinated as a child, you may be at risk for other diseases due to your age, job, lifestyle, travel or a health condition. In addition, the protection from some vaccines can wear off over time.
All adults need vaccinations to protect against serious diseases that could result in severe illness requiring medical treatment or even hospitalization, missed work, and not being able to care for family.
The vaccines a person needs are based on their age, medical conditions, occupation, vaccines they have received in the past, and other health factors.
Which Vaccines, and When?
Your doctor can help determine the vaccines you need. Here are some general guidelines.
- Flu: The flu vaccine is recommended every year for everyone 6 months of age and older, with rare exception. It’s especially important for those who are at high risk of serious flu-related complications, including adults 65 years and older, pregnant women and people with certain chronic conditions like asthma, diabetes or heart disease.
- Tdap: All adults should get a one-time dose of Tdap vaccine to protect against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (whooping cough) if they did not receive this vaccine as a preteen or teen.
- Other vaccines to consider: Vaccines you need as an adult are determined by factors such as age, lifestyle, job and health conditions. Among those your doctor may recommended are those that protect against:
- Shingles – adults 50 and older
- Pneumococcal disease (pneumonia) – adults 65 and older
- Human papillomavirus, or HPV (which can cause certain cancers) – through age 26 for females and age 21 for males
- Meningococcal disease (viral meningitis)
- Hepatitis A and B
Vaccines are Safe
The longstanding vaccine safety program in the U.S. ensures that vaccines are safe.
Side effects from vaccines are usually mild and temporary, such as soreness where the shot was given or a slight fever that goes away within a few days.
Ask your doctor or other health care professional which vaccines are right for you. You also can visit www.cdc.gov/vaccines/adults/ for more information and find a link to an adult vaccine quiz to see which vaccines are recommended for you.
Nancy M. Bennett, M.D., is director of the Center for Community Health & Prevention at the University of Rochester Medical Center, co-director of the Clinical & Translational Science Institute, and chair of the national Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.