Vaccinations — or the lack thereof — have certainly been making headlines lately. A serious measles outbreak in Washington state caused the governor to declare a state of emergency in January. Most of the dozens of confirmed cases are children who were never vaccinated against the disease. In early March, doctors reported that a 6-year-old boy in Oregon had to endure months of painful treatment — and a $800,000 medical bill — after contracting tetanus on the family farm. His parents had chosen not to vaccinate him against the disease.
It makes you wonder whether it's time for an adult vaccination checkup. Most of us know that children need vaccines as they're growing up, but there are several shots that adults should be getting, too. Here are the recommended immunizations for adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Flu — Everyone over the age of 6 months should get the flu vaccine every year before the flu starts spreading in your area. Because the virus is created to match different flu strains, it's only effective for one season.
Tetanus boosters — Everyone needs one dose of the tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (whooping cough) or TDaP vaccine. It's also recommended for women during pregnancy. All three diseases cause very serious illnesses and even death. Tetanus is an infection caused by a bacteria that produce a toxin that causes painful muscle contractions, according to the CDC.
After the TDaP, a tetanus and diptheria (Td) vaccine booster is recommended every 10 years. According to the CDC, there are only about 30 reported cases of tetanus reported in the U.S. each year. Nearly all of those cases are in people who never got a tetanus vaccine or didn't didn’t stay up to date on their 10-year booster shots.
Shingles — Almost one out of three people in the U.S. will develop this very painful disease, also known as herpes zoster. Anyone who has ever had chickenpox can develop shingles, which includes a trademark painful rash. There are two vaccines for shingles: Zostavax and Shingrix; Shingrix is the most recent and preferred vaccine, but it's often difficult to find because it's in short supply. The CDC recommends the vaccine for people age 50 and up.
HPV — The vaccine protects against cancers caused by the human papillomavirus virus. HPV is very common with nearly 80 million people — about one in four — currently infected in the U.S. The vaccine is typically given to adolescents, but it's also recommended for young women through age 26, and young men through age 21, who did not receive it earlier. It's also recommended for the following people through age 26, if they weren't vaccinated when they were younger:
- young men who have sex with men or who intend to have sex with men
- young adults who are transgender
- young adults with certain immunocompromising conditions
Pneumococcal — This vaccine prevents against infections that can lead to pneumonia, meningitis and other serious infections. The CDC recommends the pneumococcal vaccine for everyone 65 and older. You also should consider the vaccine if you're over 19 and have certain conditions, such as:
- chronic illness
- HIV, cancer or any other condition that weakens the immune system
- a cochlear implant
You are also at higher risk if you smoke cigarettes.
Hepatitis A and B — Both of these serious diseases attack the liver. Anyone can get the disease, but people who are most are risk should get the vaccine. You are more at risk if you:
- Travel outside the country
- Are a man who has sex with other men
- Use illegal drugs
- Have a chronic liver disease
- Have a clotting-factor disorder, like hemophilia
- Frequently come into direct contact with someone with hepatitis A