Vaccination is as important for adults as it is for children and yet, many adults are not optimally vaccinated. Although there has been a lack of awareness and some hesitation over adult vaccination, there clearly is a gap in knowledge when it comes to getting adults vaccinated.
The vaccines you need as an adult depend on everything from your age and lifestyle to high-risk medical conditions, travel plans and which shots you’ve had in the past.
The best reasons to get vaccinated are to protect yourself and to protect the people around you. The details:
1) You may no longer be protected. You may have received a vaccine as a child, but some vaccines require a booster if you want to remain protected. Protection may not be lifelong for diseases like pertussis (whooping cough) or tetanus, which is usually given with the diphtheria toxoid in childhood.
2) Getting vaccines helps to protect your kids – especially babies too young for vaccines. The flu vaccine is recommended for adults. There’s no flu vaccine licensed for infants younger than six months. We call that creating a cocoon of protection around the baby.
3) Some vaccines are just for adults. The shingles vaccine is a good example. Shingles (also known as herpes zoster or zoster) is caused by the chickenpox virus. It can cause a severe and painful skin rash. The risk for shingles complications increases as a person ages, like pneumonia, meningitis and infertility in men.
4) You may need them when you travel. Heading to the developing world? You may run into illnesses you’d never find at home. The yellow fever vaccination is required for travel to parts of sub-Saharan Africa and tropical South America. The Saudi Arabian government also requires the meningococcal vaccination – but only for travel during the Hajj, or annual pilgrimage to Mecca.
5) Everyone needs a flu vaccine, every year. Everyone six months of age and older should get a flu vaccine annually if they do not have a medical reason not to receive the vaccine. Each year’s vaccination is designed to protect against the three or four strains of influenza anticipated to be most commonly circulated in the upcoming flu season.
6) Your kids have set an example. Most children don’t have a choice about getting shots. But why should they be the only one getting stuck with a needle? Want to show them that prevention through vaccination works? Mum, dad, grandma and grandpa should get their vaccinations just as children do.
7) You didn’t get fully vaccinated as a child. Not everyone was, or is, fully vaccinated as a child. If you didn’t get vaccines for things like measles, mumps and rubella or chickenpox (or varicella) as a child – or any of those diseases themselves – you need them as an adult.
8) Newer vaccines have been developed. Some vaccinations recommended for adults are fairly new. For instance, the Food and Drug Administration approved the first human papillomavirus vaccine in 2006. Although the rate of adults being vaccinated with newer vaccines is increasing, awareness remains a challenge.
9) You work in the healthcare profession. Healthcare providers are exposed to all sorts of potential infections, as well as blood and bodily fluids. Most are required to have not only a complete vaccination series and evidence of immunity, but also to get annual influenza vaccinations. This includes things like measles, mumps, rubella (MMR), and hepatitis B.
10) You have asthma, heart, lung disease, diabetes, or other chronic diseases. Or you smoke cigarettes. Or your immune system is otherwise compromised. The pneumococcal vaccine helps to prevent serious disease such as pneumonia, meningitis, and blood infection caused by the bacterium Streptococcus pneumoniae. Get it because you may be at increased risk for these infections.