If you’re like most people, then you probably don’t look forward to getting a shot. However, getting vaccinated is one of the most important steps you can take to protect yourself and others in your community from disease. Shots are important to receive as children, but you need to keep updated on your vaccines even as an adult. The American Academy of Family Physicians has a schedule for the recommended vaccinations in adulthood based on age and risk.
Flu shot (Influenza)
It’s recommended that every individual over 6 months of age receive the age-appropriate inactivated influenza vaccine each year. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that receiving the influenza vaccine reduces the risk of illness in the general population by about 50-60 percent. This vaccine is most effective in older children and healthy adults but can become less effective in adults over the age of 65 or in people with chronic health problems due to weakened immune systems. Even so, everyone should still receive the flu shot for protection.
Tetanus, Diphtheria, Pertussis (Tdap)
Adults who have never received a Tdap vaccine or who are unsure about whether they have received it should be given the shot, then should receive a Tdap booster shot every 10 years. Pregnant mothers should receive the Tdap vaccination during every pregnancy regardless of their vaccine history in order to protect their newborn until the baby is old enough to receive the vaccine. Ideally, the shot would be administered between 27 and 36 weeks of pregnancy.
The CDC urges all school-aged children, adolescents and adults who haven’t shown evidence of immunity to the disease to get two doses of the chickenpox vaccine. Pregnant women and certain individuals with weakened immune systems shouldn’t receive this vaccine. The chickenpox shot is about 98% effective at protecting individuals from the disease, and even if a vaccinated individual does contract chickenpox, it’s usually a very mild form.
Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
It’s recommended that women receive three doses of the HPV vaccine before they’re 26. Men should receive three doses of the HPV vaccine before the age of 21, or before the age of 26 depending on lifestyle and risk factors. Talk with your physician to determine when you should receive your HPV vaccines. Studies have shown that the HPV vaccine provides nearly 100 percent protection in both males and females from HPV types 6, 11, 16 and 18 if all three doses are received at the correct intervals, and if it is given before you have an infection with these types.
The zoster vaccination shouldn’t be administered to pregnant women or certain individuals with severely suppressed immune systems. Otherwise, the vaccine is available to everyone over the age of 50, but the American Academy of Family Physicians recommends everyone receive one dose of the vaccine around age 60, whether or not they’ve had a previous diagnosis of shingles (herpes zoster). Shingles occurs when the chickenpox virus in the body becomes reactivated.
Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR)
Either one or two doses of the MMR vaccine should be administered by the age of 55. A single dose is often enough, but a routine second dose of MMR vaccine, administered a minimum of 28 days after the first dose, is recommended for adults who study in postsecondary educational institutions, work in a healthcare facility or plan to travel internationally. A single dose is 93 percent effective at preventing measles while two doses are 97 percent effective. The MMR vaccine shouldn’t be given to anyone who is pregnant or has a severely suppressed immune system.
There are two vaccines to prevent pneumococcal disease: pneumococcal conjugate and pneumococcal polysaccharide. Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine is recommended for all children under 2 years old, all adults over 65, and individuals 2 through 64 years old with certain medical conditions (speak to your healthcare provider to see if this applies to you).
Pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine is recommended for all adults over 65, people 2 through 64 who are at increased risk for disease due to certain medical conditions, and adults 19 through 64 years old who smoke cigarettes. While pneumococcal disease is more common in younger children, it’s usually more dangerous in older adults.
All 11-12 year olds should receive a meningococcal vaccine followed by a booster dose around age 16. As an adult, it’s recommended that you receive the vaccine only if you have certain risk factors. These include those who are HIV positive, military recruits, first-year college students living in residence halls if they aren’t up to date on their shorts, those with a damaged or removed liver, and certain others.
This list isn’t comprehensive. Tell your healthcare provider about your lifestyle and risks to see if you should receive other vaccinations, which can protect not only you but those you love and your community from devastating illnesses and diseases.