Childhood vaccinations receive a lot of attention due to their importance in preventing potentially serious illnesses, but immunizations for adults are equally crucial. Depending on your age, lifestyle factors, and history of childhood immunizations, you may need to receive certain vaccinations during your adult years. By following the vaccination recommendation for adults set out by health organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), you can help to keep yourself healthy and prevent several life-threatening diseases.
Below are details on recommended vaccinations for adults age 19 and older. Note that while most adults should receive these vaccines, your individual vaccination schedule should also take your medical history into account. For example, your vaccination needs may be different if you are pregnant or have a compromised immune system. Consult with your primary care physician if you have any concerns or questions about whether a certain vaccine is appropriate in your case.
Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection. The CDC states that 80% of people in the United States will have an HPV infection at some point. Although most HPV cases cause no problems, there is a strong link between infection with certain HPV strains and cervical cancer in women as well as penile, anal and throat cancers.
If you did not receive the HPV vaccine as a child, you may still get vaccinated as an adult. Women can have the vaccine up to 26 years of age, and most men can have the vaccine up to 21. Additionally, the vaccine is recommended for men in certain high-risk groups until the age of 26.
The Flu Shot
It’s recommended that everyone over the age of six months needs an annual influenza vaccine. The flu changes each year, so a vaccination is only good for a single flu season. While influenza may seem more like an annoyance than a life-threatening illness, keep in mind that many thousands of people die from the flu in the United States every year. The flu can easily make you susceptible to severe illnesses, such as pneumonia.
The Tdap vaccine is a combined immunization against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (whooping cough). Each of these three diseases is potentially deadly – both to yourself and others. If you never had the Tdap vaccine as a child, then you will need it once as an adult. Additionally, you should receive a Td (tetanus and diphtheria) booster every ten years after your initial Tdap injection.
MMR and Varicella
Most adults received the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine as a child. If you did not, you will need to have the inoculation as an adult. Also, if you did not have the varicella (chickenpox) vaccine in childhood or did not contract the disease itself, you should get vaccinated. Chickenpox is often mild in childhood, but the infection can be much more serious for adults.
Herpes zoster is better known as shingles. This condition is caused by a reactivation of the same virus responsible for chickenpox. Shingles can be quite painful and result in lasting nerve damage or even blindness.
To greatly reduce the chances of contracting shingles, adults age 50 and older should receive a vaccine against the virus. Even though the vaccine’s protection rate against shingles is not 100%, the vaccination can still reduce the severity if you do develop shingles.
The pneumococcal vaccination protects against the Streptococcus pneumoniae species of bacteria which is responsible for many cases of pneumonia, meningitis, and other infections. You should receive this vaccine beginning at 65 years of age. Also, adults of any age who are smokers should get the pneumococcal vaccination as they have a high risk of developing bronchitis, pneumonia, and other pulmonary illnesses.
You may need other vaccinations based on factors such as your sexual lifestyle, current medical conditions and occupation. The possibilities include the Haemophilus influenzae type B (Hib) vaccine, the hepatitis A and B vaccines, and meningococcal vaccinations. Ask your primary care doctor if these immunizations are necessary or recommended in your situation.
If you’re in Connecticut and would like to find a doctor near you to help evaluate which adult vaccinations you may need, you can locate a board-certified PACT primary care physician using our searchable list here.
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