If you’re a parent, then you know that your kids need routine vaccines throughout their childhood to protect against specific diseases and illnesses. Did you know that adults need vaccines, too? Aside from an annual flu shot, adults need a series of vaccines as they age to ward off viruses, diseases and deadly illnesses. Not only will you need boosters for immunizations you received as a child, but you’ll also need new shots for new and different threats.
Protection as You Age
Research is clear: Vaccines save lives. There has been no medical link between vaccinations and autism in children, and for most of the population, immunizations protect against a host of serious, debilitating and often life-threatening medical conditions. Few people suffer significant side effects from vaccinations. As an adult, it’s important to stay on top of your immunizations because not getting vaccinated can affect your long-term health. According to the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, vaccines can protect adults from these 14 threatening diseases:
- Pneumococcal disease
- Hepatitis A and B
- Measles, mumps and rubella
- Whooping cough
- Chickenpox and shingles
- Meningococcal disease
If you travel frequently, then you may need additional vaccines for other viruses that aren’t commonly found in the U.S. Depending on your occupation, you may be at a higher risk for developing certain diseases, such as tetanus, which means you’ll need a booster shot sooner than someone with a lower risk. People with weakened immune systems should also be diligent about getting vaccinated to protect themselves from contracting life-threatening conditions.
No Standard Schedule
Unlike children, who get the same vaccines at around the same time in their development, adults need different vaccines for different reasons, and there’s no set schedule for receiving them. The type of immunizations you receive and how often you get vaccinated depend on various factors, including your age, lifestyle, job and travel needs, and medical condition. You may also need different boosters depending on the vaccines you’ve had before.
Certain shots only have to be administered once. For instance, the Tdap vaccine, which protects against tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough in adults, is only given once as an adult after your initial round of vaccines for these individual diseases during childhood. Adults over 60 need a shingles vaccine, and the pneumococcal vaccine is for people over the age of 65. Everyone older than six months should get a seasonal flu shot.
Immunity from vaccines can wear off, and for older adults, there may be newer vaccines available that didn’t exist when you were a child. Today’s children, for instance, get vaccinated against varicella, the medical name for chicken pox, a condition that a lot of older adults did not get immunized against.
Getting vaccinated also helps protect others in your community, particularly people who can’t get immunizations due to adverse reactions or compromised immune systems. Talk to your doctor about getting updated on your shots. She can discuss your medical history, explain your risks and create a vaccine schedule that works for you.