Vaccines for Adults
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have all been following the development of vaccines against coronavirus. There is reasonable hope that a vaccine will help us resume our normal lives. While we all recognize how important a COVID-19 vaccine will be, we shouldn’t forget about the vaccines that have been in use for years. They are just as important for helping us avoid life-threatening illness.
According to the CDC, thousands of adults are hospitalized annually because of vaccine-preventable diseases. Sadly, the failure or choice to not immunize can be deadly.
In addition to childhood vaccines wearing off over time, other factors can put adults at risk of contracting vaccine-preventable diseases. Things such as lifestyle, medical conditions, travel, job, and, yes, age can all make you vulnerable.
Vaccines generate antibodies in your system that help you fight off diseases ranging from the flu and pneumonia to whooping cough and shingles. In addition, staying current with vaccines helps ensure you don’t spread disease to others. This is especially important for adults who may spend time with infant children, grandchildren or anyone with weakened immune systems—including those undergoing chemotherapy—as they are all highly susceptible to infectious disease.
The CDC recommends adults get vaccine protection from the following diseases:
- Seasonal influenza (flu) – An annual flu vaccine is recommended for everyone 6 months and older as the best way to reduce the risk of flu and potentially serious complications. And in case you’re an older adult in need of a bit more encouragement, the CDC notes that in recent years, approximately 90% of influenza-related deaths and 50-70% of influenza-related hospitalizations occur among people age 65 and older.
- Pertussis (whooping cough) – The Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis) vaccine is recommended once for all adults who have not previously received it, as well as women during the third trimester of each pregnancy.
- Tetanus and diphtheria – The Td vaccine is recommended every 10 years.
- Shingles – The shingles vaccine is recommended for adults 50 years and older.
- Pneumococcal disease – There are two types of Pneumococcal vaccination. Only one, PPSV23, is recommended for all adults 65 years and older. One or both types may be recommended for adults younger than 65 who have specific health conditions or who smoke cigarettes.
- MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) – Adults born after 1956 should have at least 1 dose of the MMR vaccine or documented immunity to measles, mumps, and rubella.
Additional vaccines you may wish to discuss with your doctor include human papillomavirus (which can cause certain cancers), meningococcal disease, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and chickenpox.
Vaccines are one of the safest ways to protect your health and the health of those around you. They only take minutes to administer and side effects are minimal, usually nothing more than soreness around the injection site. The time they take and any slight discomfort they may cause pale in comparison to the potential outcomes of and time lost to fighting an infectious disease. Contact your primary care provider to see if you have all of the vaccines that are recommended for you.
Dr. Richard Wiseman is an internal medicine physician at SVMC Internal Medicine.