Adult Immunizations Save Lives

You may not need proof of immunization before they let you in grad school or a note from your doctor that everything’s up to date before you can go to work, but as an adult you still need regular immunizations. “Wait, I got my flu shot. Isn’t that enough?” Well not really, depending on where you work and what you do, some other immunizations may be mandatory, and even if you don’t work in a field that exposes you to the risk of Hepatitis A and B, there are still other shots you need to safeguard your health.

In some cases, depending on age and other factors, adults may be more at risk for certain diseases than children. If you have any doubts, check with your doctor about whether you should be immunized for the following. The life you save could be your own.

1. If you’ve ever been walking and stepped on a rusty nail, you know it can penetrate a flip flop or $300 athletic shoe with equal ease. That tetanus shot you got as a child is no longer any protection. All adults need a booster shot every 10 years, and the current recommendation is that one of these boosters be replaced with a Tdap — a combination of three vaccines that protect against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (also called whooping cough) — at some point between age 19 and 64.

2. As hard as it is to believe in our age of medical miracles, people still do die of pneumonia. All adults over the age of 65 should have a one-time pneumonia vaccine. People with compromised immune systems and chronic illnesses such as cancer, AIDS, diabetes, kidney disease and heart disease will need to have the vaccine repeated every five years.

3. It goes without saying that a flu shot is recommended yearly for all adults, but is even more important for adults with compromised immune systems and chronic illnesses.

4. Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B vaccines are commonly given to people who work in health care, the food, or sewage industries. Check with your doctor regarding your risk factors.

5. Although generally not life threatening, those who have had chickenpox will attest to its misery. At its most serious chickenpox can lead to encephalitis, a dangerous inflammation of the brain. Chickenpox is caused by a type of herpes virus called varicella-zoster virus (VZV). After the initial chickenpox infection, VZV hides in nerve cells and is sometimes reactivated later in life. This reactivated, often very painful, disease is called shingles. The varicella vaccine for chickenpox was introduced in 1995 and is recommended for all adults who have never had either chickenpox or the vaccine.

6. The herpes zoster vaccine is recommended for all adults over the age of 60. It protects against shingles, regardless of whether the person has had the disease before or not.

7. Young women under the age of 24 who have not had the HPV vaccine as a teen should talk to their doctors about being vaccinated. This new vaccine protects against certain types of cervical cancer.

8. If you’re over 50, chances are you’ve had at least one of the following when you were young: measles, mumps or rubella. One vaccine, the MMR, now provides protection against all three. Adults born after 1956 should receive at least one MMR vaccination if they have never had the diseases or received an MMR vaccine during their lifetime.

9. The meningococcal vaccine (MCV4) protects against four strains of the meningococcal bacteria. Known for its sudden onset, symptoms may be dismissed as simply a case of the flu particularly by young, college age adults who are among the most vulnerable. Three strains are common in the United States and the fourth strain protects travelers to certain countries where meningitis is more common.

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