Vaccines: something you’ll never outgrow

December 2012

Vaccinating a patient

Just because you’re a grownup, it doesn’t mean you don’t need vaccines anymore. The fact is, even adults need shots to protect against diseases. And if you ask nicely, you might get a cute bandage afterward just like the kids do!

Why don’t you outgrow the need for vaccines? In some cases, the immunity you get from vaccines wears off over time, so you may need booster shots. Other factors can all affect what kinds of vaccines you may need and how often you may need them. Those factors range from your age and any health problems you may have to how often you travel and where you go.

What vaccines we need and when

What are the vaccines that you might need to get? Here are some common vaccines that doctors recommend for adults:

Seasonal flu vaccine

Doctors say adults should get the flu vaccine every year, just before the start of flu season or as soon as the vaccine is available. The exception: If you’ve had an allergic reaction to the flu vaccine in the past or if you are sick when you’re supposed to get the shot, your doctor may tell you to skip it.

Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis) vaccine

Tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (whopping cough) are all dangerous and even potentially deadly bacterial infections. Your doctor may give you a Tdap shot if you haven’t had the vaccine before &- or if you don’t know whether you’ve had it before. Booster Td (tetanus, diphtheria) shots are recommended every 10 years for kids and adults.

Chicken pox (varicella) vaccine

If you’ve never had chickenpox, or are not sure if you’ve had it, your doctor may recommend the varicella vaccine.

Shingles (herpes zoster) vaccine

If you’re 60 years old or older, your doctor will probably tell you that you need the shingles vaccine.  That’s because anyone who has had chickenpox still has the varicella virus in their bodies. This can lead to shingles, a painful rash, years later in life.

Measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine

If you were born during or after 1957 and didn’t get the vaccine as a child, your doctor will probably tell you to get this vaccine.

Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine

This vaccine is recommended for women and men ages 26 and younger. HPV is a common sexually transmitted infection that can cause genital warts and, in women, cervical cancer.

Hepatitis A vaccine

If you have chronic liver disease or clotting disorder (such as hemophilia), you may need the hepatitis A vaccine. Other factors that make the hepatitis A vaccine necessary include gay sex between men, using drugs with needles, or traveling to countries where hepatitis A is common.

Hepatitis B vaccine

If you are sexually active but not in a mutually monogamous relationship, if you are being treated for an STD, or if you are a man who has sex with men, then you should talk to your doctor about getting the hepatitis B vaccine. Other factors that may make getting the hepatitis B vaccine necessary: injection drug use; being a healthcare worker who could be exposed to infected blood and other body fluids; living or working in a country that has a lot of hepatitis B; and having HIV, chronic liver disease, or receiving hemodialysis for renal disease.

Pneumococcal vaccine

Anyone who has chronic lung disease (such as asthma), liver disease, or diabetes should get the pneumococcal vaccine. Your doctor may also give you this vaccine if you are age 65 or over, have a weakened immune system, or smoke.

Meningococcal vaccine

If you live in a college dormitory and didn’t get the vaccine when you were a child, or if you’re planning to travel to a country where meningitis is common, your doctor will probably give you the meningococcal vaccine.

Find out which vaccines you should get

Kids aren’t the only ones who need vaccines to prevent illnesses and infections.

With all the different types of vaccines and reasons you may need them, it can be very easy to get confused about which ones you may need and when. Thankfully, there are lots of places you can turn to for information.

First, talk to your doctor. He or she will have your personal medical history and will also have the latest information on what vaccines people should get. You can also find more information about adults and vaccinations on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website and at a website managed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services www.vaccines.gov.

Learn about annual vaccinations to fight the flu and protect yourself in the season

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