5 Adult Vaccines: Why and When You Need Them
Doctors recommend dozens of vaccines during childhood, but adults need protection against dangerous diseases, too. Here are 5 of the most common adult vaccines, and why (and when) you need them.
Flu shots are recommended for almost everyone 6 months of age and older by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The best time to get your flu shot is between Halloween and Thanksgiving so you will be protected before “peak” flu season hits in the winter.
Flu shots are especially important for adults who are more susceptible to a severe flu illness, including adults with respiratory diseases like asthma, diabetes, heart disease, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).
For adults over 65 years old, there are specific high-dose flu vaccines with 3X the amount of proteins that trigger immune response in the body. Unfortunately, flu vaccines for adults do not always work — and many adults suffer a few days of mild side effects.
Pneumococcal vaccines (also called “pneumonia vaccines”) protect against a bacterial infection that can cause pneumonia or meningitis.
Everyone aged 65 and older should get this vaccine — especially adults who smoke cigarettes, have lung disease or other chronic medical conditions that increase their risk of hospitalization and death. You will need two shots — PCV13 at age 65 and PPSV23 at age 66.
Tetanus Booster Shots
Adults need regular booster shots against the bacterial diseases Tetanus (Lockjaw) and Diphtheria — either the Td vaccine or Tdap vaccine. The Tdap vaccine also includes protection against Pertussis (Whooping Cough) and it is usually given to teenagers, but adults who did not get Tdap as teenagers should get 1 dose of Tdap. After 1 dose of Tdap, the Td vaccine is given every 10 years. One dose of Tdap is also recommended for women in the 3rd trimester of every pregnancy.
The shingles vaccine Zostavax® is recommended for adults over 60 years old. The problem is that it contains a live virus — the same virus that causes chickenpox — and the vaccine can potentially trigger severe shingles infections in adults with vulnerable immune systems. The other problem is that Zostavax is only about 50% effective at preventing shingles and protection lasts less than 5 years, but the virus stays in the body forever. In some cases, the virus re-activates and causes a shingles rash.
Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B are viruses that attack the liver. Children are now routinely vaccinated against hepatitis, but some adults also need vaccinations. For example, adults who travel to certain parts of the world may need the Hepatitis A vaccine. The Hepatitis B vaccine is also recommended for adults who are exposed to body fluids, or if they have diseases like kidney failure, HIV, liver disease, or diabetes.