Adult Vaccination’s Role in Protecting Your Health

Vaccinations aren’t just for children. There are several important vaccines recommended for adults, but too many adults fail to receive them. “Generally, people don’t like getting shots, let’s be honest,” says Dr. Anita V. Pavels, an Internal Medicine specialist with Premier Medical Group. “But adults need these vaccines because there are viruses and bacteria that can still make them very, very sick. The most important vaccines are aimed at those types of germs.” These include protection against influenza, pneumococcal pneumonia, shingles and tetanus-diphtheria-pertussis.


INFLUENZA—annual dose
The flu causes as many as 49,000 deaths and 100,000 hospitalizations each year, according to estimates by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The flu vaccine, which is reformulated every year to match the ever-evolving viral strains, can be taken as a shot or a nasal spray by those under 50 with no respiratory problems. Fall is the best time to be vaccinated because it takes two to three weeks for the vaccine to kick-start the immune system.

PNEUMOCOCCAL PNEUMONIA — 1 dose PCV13 and 1-2 doses PPSV23 starting at least by age 65
There are two pneumococcal vaccines. The PCV13 vaccine, known by the brand name Prevnar-13, protects against 13 strains of the bacteria. The PPSV23 vaccine offers protection against 23 strains. Which one you get, and when, depends on your personal health history, but typically adults should receive the PCV13 vaccine by at least age 65, followed about a year later by the PPSV23 vaccine. The option of a second PPSV23shot about five years after the first is discretionary, based on the patients’ health status.

SHINGLES — single dose at age 60 or over.
Shingles is caused by Varicella Zoster, the virus that causes chickenpox in children and then lies dormant in the body. The virus can reactivate and cause mild to severe pain and a blistering rash. The shingles vaccine is recommended for all adults age 60 and older who have a history of chickenpox. “If you have already had shingles, I still recommend the vaccine to prevent future flareups,” Dr. Pavels says.

Pertussis, better known as whooping cough, was nearly eradicated in this country, thanks to vaccinations. But it has reemerged, because vaccination rates have dropped and the vaccine’s effectiveness wears off over time. Adults should receive the tetanusdiphtheria- pertussis (Tdap) booster vaccine at least once. Those who have children or grandchildren, or who work with children, should be especially vigilant, as pertussis can be fatal in infants. The Td vaccine would follow at 10 year intervals.