Are you up to date on all your immunizations?

January 4, 2022 in Preventive Care  •  By Miles Varn, MD

Getting the full series of COVID-19 vaccines is an important way to both protect your health and the health of your community. But are you keeping current with the other adult immunizations that are appropriate for you? To find out which immunizations are recommended, talk with your primary care provider. Your provider can tell you which shots are recommended for you based on your age, health, and medical history.

While the rate of adult immunizations has been rising over the past few years, not taking into account COVID-19 vaccines, that rate is still low. A 2021 CDC report found that few adults older than 19 had received all age-appropriate vaccines. That leaves unimmunized people at risk for serious health consequences from diseases that can be prevented by vaccines. Researchers estimate that 40,000 to 50,000 adults in the U.S. die each year from vaccine-preventable diseases like the flu, pneumonia, and hepatitis B.

What immunizations may adults need?

The CDC’s adult vaccine recommendations take a number of factors into consideration, including your age, overall health, lifestyle, sexual activity, job, and where you travel. Talk to your healthcare provider to find out which of these immunizations you should consider receiving and when you should receive them:

  • Influenza: The flu vaccine is recommended for everyone from the age of six months throughout adulthood. You need to receive this vaccine every year in the fall or winter.
  • Pneumococcal disease: These two shots prevent several types of pneumococcal diseases, including pneumonia, bacterial meningitis, and infections in the bloodstream. These vaccines are recommended for people who are 65 or older as well as younger people with several conditions that put them at higher risk of pneumococcal disease, such as asthma, heart, lung, and kidney disease, diabetes, diseases and medications that suppress the immune system, and people who smoke.
  • Tetanus, diphtheria, whooping cough (pertussis) (Tdap, Td): This immunization is given to children, but adults may need a booster every 10 years. Tdap is also recommended for people who are pregnant.
  • Zoster (shingles): Shingles is caused by the virus that also causes chicken pox. Once you’ve had chicken pox, the virus stays in you body in an inactive state. If it reactivates, it causes shingles. Adults 50 and older should consider getting the two dose immunization to prevent shingles.
  • Measles, mumps, rubella (MMR): People born in 1957 or later may need one booster dose of this vaccine, which is also recommended for healthcare workers and travellers to certain international destinations.
  • Human papilloma virus (HPV): Although this vaccine is recommended for young people starting at age 11 or 12, if you did not receive the three shot series when you were younger, it is FDA-approved for people up to age 45.
  • Meningococcal disease: There are two immunizations that protect against meningococcal disease, a serious bacterial infection. You may have received this vaccine as a child and a booster as a teenager. Adults with immune disorders, sickle cell disease, HIV and those who take certain drugs that suppress the immune system, have a damaged spleen, or are traveling to countries where this disease is common should consider getting this vaccination.
  • Hepatitis A and B: These immunizations can be given separately or as a combined vaccine. People who may want to consider receiving these immunizations include those who plan to travel to areas where the diseases are more common, people who inject illegal drugs, people who risk exposure at work (lab workers, police and EMTs, healthcare workers, childcare workers, correctional institution staff), people with hemophilia, people with chronic liver disease, and people whose sexual behaviors put them at higher risk.

A health advisor can help you learn more about what immunizations you should discuss with your healthcare provider and provide evidence-based information about all immunizations to help you make an informed choice.