Do adults really need immunizations?
That's right, immunizations aren't just for kids. In fact, it may be time for you to catch up on some vaccines that weren't available when you were younger, or get boosters for vaccines you had ages ago. Also, you might want to get an annual flu shot.
Recommendations change all the time and everyone's situation is different, so discuss each vaccine with your doctor to help you decide which, if any, you need. This is especially true if you have certain medical conditions (including immune disorders, cancer, diabetes, HIV, heart disease, liver, or kidney disease), or if you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant in the near future. In certain cases, some vaccines may be unsafe for you. Always check with your primary care doctor or specialist first.
See the complete adult immunization schedule here: http://www.aafp.org/news/health-of-the-public/20170206immunskeds.html
Vaccines that the CDC currently recommends for all people within certain age groups:
- Flu: The CDC recommends that all adults get the flu vaccine every fall. It is especially important for people who work in a health-care profession, or who live in households with sick or elderly people as well as people who have illnesses that put them at high risk for developing the flu. People who have close contact with children under age 5 should also get it.
- Varicella: If you have never had chicken pox, or only received one dose of the vaccine, talk with your doctor about whether you should get this vaccine.
- Tdap: This vaccine protects adults against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (whooping cough). People age 18 to 64 need a single dose of Tdap, then need to boost with Td every 10 years. If you're not sure whether you were immunized against these illnesses as a child, or if you have an incomplete vaccination history, you should get the three-shot primary Td vaccine series for adults (against tetanus and diphtheria). To protect against whooping cough as well, make sure you have the Tdap vaccine substituted for any one shot of the series, ideally the first dose. The CDC generally recommends that those 65 and over receive the Td booster instead because Tdap hasn't been widely studied in this age group. However, given an outbreak of whooping cough in California in 2010, the CDC recommended the off-label use of the Tdap vaccine in adults ages 65 and older who have close contact with infants.
- MMR: This one protects against measles, mumps, and rubella. People born after 1957 should get a one-time booster if they already had the series as a child. In some cases, you may need a second dose (if you're a college student or health-care worker, or traveling internationally, for example). People born before 1957 are generally considered immune, but may need a booster in certain cases.
- HPV: This is a new three-dose vaccine against the strains of human papilloma virus which cause genital warts and cervical cancer. Recommended for all women aged 26 and under.
- Pneumococcal polysaccharide (PPV): This vaccine protects against a certain type of bacterial meningitis. Two doses are recommended for those 65 and over (see recommendations). People under age 65 may need two doses if they have certain medical conditions, a weak immune system or live in long-term care facilities. Native American and Alaskan Natives are at higher risk as well and may need the vaccine as well.
- Herpes zoster: This vaccine protects against the virus that causes shingles. People 60 and over should get one dose. Those under 60 may need it in certain situations.
These vaccines are recommended for certain populations only:
- Hepatitis A: The two-shot series is recommended for certain people, including those with chronic liver disease, men who have sex with men, those who use illegal drugs, and people traveling to countries with high rates of hepatitis A. The CDC notes that anyone who wants to be protected from the disease should get the vaccine.
- Hepatitis B: The three-shot series is recommended for many categories of people, including those with certain illnesses. High-risk medical conditions include chronic liver disease, end-stage kidney disease, HIV, and any sexually-transmitted disease. It's also recommended for anyone who has had more than one sexual partner in the past 6 months; all men who have sex with men; most health-care and public-safety workers; and all people living or working in drug treatment facilities, jails, and facilities for the developmentally disabled. People traveling to places with high rates of hepatitis B should also get vaccinated. The CDC notes that anyone who wants to be protected from the disease should get the vaccine.
- Meningococcal conjugate or MPSV4: This single-dose vaccine protects against certain types of bacterial meningitis (but is different from the pneumococcal variety listed above). It is required for all military recruits, first-year college students living in dorms, and those with certain immune deficiencies. People traveling to certain parts of sub-Saharan Africa and other high-risk parts of the world should also be vaccinated. Adults who remain at high risk for infection or who live in an area where disease is epidemic may revaccinate after five years.
Centers for Disease Control. Recommended Adult Immunization Schedule -- United States, 2017. http://www.aafp.org/news/health-of-the-public/20170206immunskeds.html
ACIP Expands Recommendations for Pertussis, Meningococcal Vaccinations. AAFP News Now. American Academy of Family Physicians. Nov. 3, 2010.