Vaccines are an integral component of preventive medicine, but they are surrounded by hype and misconceptions that can affect their proper use. Even those who do not subscribe to the anti-vaccination movement—which itself is fueled by misinformation—may not realize that vaccines are not just for kids. Adults will need to continue to be immunized with at least one shot every year: The annual flu shot. If you have not been following a regular vaccination routine during your annual checkups, it is time to talk to your doctor about adult immunizations for every phase of life. To help you receive the right preventive care, here’s a look at some important questions related to adult vaccines.
Which Vaccines Do Adults Need?
Most healthy adults will need a flu shot once every year at the start of flu season as well as a Td booster every 10 years following an initial Tdap (Tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis) inoculation. The HPV vaccine is also essential for anyone who did not receive it as a child; it may be administered in women up to age 26 and men up to age 21. MMR—or measles, mumps, rubella—is another vaccine that should be given to adults if it was not administered during childhood. Generally, this is a one-time shot, but two doses may be required for college students and those traveling to other countries. As you get older, your immune system can become more compromised, meaning that you might need more vaccines as a senior. Older adults often need the pneumococcal vaccine as well as a higher dose flu vaccine, because of the particularly high risk seniors face from seasonal influenza and pneumonia.
Why Do Vaccines Need to Be Repeated?
Even if you were fully vaccinated as a child, you will still need booster shots and an annual flu shot to stay in your best state of health. This may cause you to wonder why vaccines are not effective after just one shot. With some, such as the tetanus shot, a booster is necessary to continue effectively protecting against the bacterial illness. In the case of viral illnesses, more specifically the flu, the disease can evolve so quickly that one vaccine will not continue to be effective. Each year, the flu strain that is most active during flu season is different from the previous year. Which means that a new shot will be necessary to provide immunity.
What Lifestyle Choices Can Impact Immunization Needs?
Generally, the needs of adults will remain the same until the age of 65. There are, however, some lifestyles that can necessitate an increase in vaccinations. For example, those entering college or the military may need the meningococcal vaccine, because the risk for meningitis is higher in the close quarters of community housing. Additionally, military personnel and frequent world travelers may need vaccinations to stay healthy in certain parts of the world where diseases like malaria and yellow fever are more common. During pregnancy, women may need to receive certain shots as boosters for added protection for their growing babies.
Because there are so many factors that can influence your vaccination needs, you should discuss immunization with your doctor to make the most informed decisions about your care. With MeMD, you can talk to a board-certified medical provider any time to plan your healthcare from the comfort of home.