Keeping up with yearly vaccines might seem like something you don’t have to worry about in adulthood, but there are several immunizations that people over the age of 19 should be receiving on a regular basis to prevent disease and associated complications.
Scott & White internist, John David Myers, MD, said that illnesses like shingles and pneumonia can become serious quickly if the person has not been vaccinated. He offers some information on important adult vaccines and why you should consider getting them.
1. Flu Vaccine
Common Misconceptions: Some patients believe that they can get the flu just by receiving this vaccine. But Dr. Myers said this is not the case.
“The adult flu vaccine is usually a killed virus,” the internist said. “Up until the age of 50, you can receive an attenuated, live virus in the form of a nasal spray. You might get ill from that, but it’s generally not as bad as traditional flu.”
What it prevents: The flu vaccine keeps recipients from getting sick from the flu and protects them from developing serious complications. It is also beneficial to those who have chronic health conditions from becoming seriously ill.
Effectiveness: While the flu vaccine is an important immunization to receive, patients should know that the effectiveness of the vaccine varies. Health organizations watch for what strains are causing illness in other parts of the world. They often create a flu vaccine based on the flu strains in this area. It may or may not be a different “bug” than the one that will affect people in the United States.
How often you should get it: Adults should get a flu vaccine every year. Receiving your immunization before the beginning of flu season—which usually begins in January—makes the vaccine more effective. But it’s not too late to get your flu shot in December or January.
2. TDap Vaccine
Common Misconceptions: According to the Centers for Disease Control, there are certain symptoms that are considered side effects of the vaccine. These symptoms can include diarrhea, minor upper respiratory illnesses and fever. These conditions are probably not caused by the vaccine, but if your symptoms persist, consult your primary care physician.
What it prevents: The TDap vaccine is a combination of three vaccines. It helps to prevent patients from contracting diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis. It is especially important to receive protection from pertussis (whooping cough) in order to prevent your children from contracting the disease.
Effectiveness: The vaccine, like other immunizations, is effective at preventing disease in most patients, but is not perfect. Its potency can wear off over time. However, it is highly-effective in 7 out of 10 people who receive it.
How often you should get it: “The CDC recommends that you receive a TDap booster once during adulthood (after the age of 19) and a tetanus booster every ten years,” Dr. Myers said.
3. Pneumonia Vaccine
Common Misconceptions: According to the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, many people believe that pneumonia is not a serious illness. However, pneumonia can be deadly. It kills thousands of people in the US each year, many of them over the age of 65.
What it prevents: The pneumonia vaccine can help prevent someone from developing life-threatening complications and infections if they have been exposed to or contracted pneumonia.
Effectiveness: The vaccine has been shown to be between 50 and 85 percent effective in adults with healthy immune systems, according to the CDC.
How often you should get it: “Pneumonia vaccines are typically given once after the age of 65,” Dr. Myers said. “But if you have other medical problems like diabetes, COPD or emphysema, you should get a pneumonia vaccine before the age of 65.”
4. Shingles Vaccine
Common Misconceptions: Some believe that shingles is a rare condition that only effects elderly people. But in fact, shingles effects millions of Americans every year and can even affect younger, healthier people.
What it prevents: The vaccine helps prevent the risk of developing shingles and its painful side effects.
Effectiveness: While studies are still being conducted to find out the efficacy of the shingles vaccine, current research suggests that the vaccine reduces the overall incidence of shingles by 51 percent, according to the CDC.
How often you should get it: The shingles vaccine is given as a single dose and is recommended for individuals over the age of 60 who have been exposed to chicken pox sometime over their lifetime. The internist said that includes most of the population.
“I think it’s a good idea to be vaccinated,” Dr. Myers said. “I do hear people complain about the tetanus shot, because it does hurt the most. But other than being painful, these vaccines are safe and effective and are a good thing to get done.”
For more information about the vaccines recommended for the adult population the physician suggests visiting cdc.gov, acponline.og or aafp.org.