Vaccines at Every Age
We are accustomed to hearing about vaccines for young children. That’s certainly when we get most of our vaccines, many of which we will never need again. While childhood vaccines are important for preventing those childhood diseases and diseases throughout our lives, I want to stress how important vaccines are in later childhood and as adults. For every age group, there is a must-get vaccine.
Ages 2 and under Pneumococcal vaccines protect against pneumonia. Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13) is the one recommended for those who are age 2 and under. It is given in four doses, one each at 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, and 12 – 15 months.
Ages 6 months and up An annual flu shot is a must-get for everyone ages 6 months and older. The flu kills tens of thousands of people every year and keeps many more out of work for weeks. The flu shot keeps you from getting a serious case of the flu.
Ages 5 and up Being up to date on your COVID vaccine is a great way to avoid this serious and potentially deadly disease. COVID vaccines are available at the COVID Resource Center.
Ages 9 – 12 HPV vaccine is a breakthrough in recent years. It prevents a common virus that can lead to cancer later in life. The vaccine comes in two doses and is a safe and effective way for pre-teens to prevent these cancers.
Around age 11 TDaP vaccine protects against Tetanus, Diphtheria, Pertussis. Children should receive a single dose around age 11 or 12. Adults who have never received the TDaP vaccine should also get a dose. Boosters should be given every 10 years, during every pregnancy (as it helps protect the newborn, especially from Pertussis, which can be life threatening at that age), if caring for a newborn, and every 5 years if you get a severe or dirty wound or burn.
Ages 19 – 59 Hepatitis B vaccine is recommended for everyone 19 – 59. The vaccine prevents serious health problems, including liver damage, cirrhosis, liver cancer, and even death.
50 and older As we get older, our immune systems get weaker. We need more help from vaccines to fight off certain diseases. Shingles is painful and debilitating and affect one out of every three people in the United States during their lifetime. The shingles vaccine is a must-get for everyone 50 and older.
65 and older Different formulations of pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine—PCV15, PCV20, or PPSV23—are recommended for this group, depending on whether you have been vaccinated before and with what type. These newer formulas are better. Ask your doctor what type you received in the past, if any; whether you should be revaccinated; and when.
Anyone who travels internationally should be aware of the vaccine recommendations for their destination and review the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s travel guidance. Depending on your destination, you may need shots to protect you against typhoid, yellow fever, and hepatitis A.
Depending on many factors—health conditions you have, including pregnancy; whether you received some or all of your vaccinations on time or at what ages; and whether your job puts you at higher risk, for instance—your doctor may recommend other vaccines for you. Check in to ensure you are as well protected as you can be against common vaccine-preventable diseases.
Marie George, MD, FIDSA, is an infectious disease specialist at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center, part of Southwestern Vermont Health Care, in Bennington.