When we think of vaccines, we tend to think of the ones children are required to get. For many of us, unless you're planning a trip overseas, it may have been years since you last got any sort of shot. And while some may say that's irresponsible, it's also understandable, considering the amount of confusion out there about what immunizations adults need. Because, after all, we only really ever hear about the flu shot, right?
But the flu vaccine isn't the only one recommended for adults. And while specific immunizations you may need as an adult are determined by factors such as your age, lifestyle, health conditions, locations of travel, and previous immunizations, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, certain shots are recommended for most adults ...
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All adults (19 and older) who have never received the Tdap vaccine are urged to get the shot, which covers tetanus, diptheria, and pertussis (whooping cough). Tdap is especially important for health care workers who have direct contact with patient, caregivers of infants under 1 year old, including parents, grandparents, and babysitters, pregnant women in their third trimester (ideally 27th through 36th week), even if they have previously received Tdap vaccine; this can protect a newborn from whooping cough in the first months of life, new mothers who have never received the Tdap, and people who travel to countries where pertussis is common.
Similarly, the CDC says adults -- especially those at high risk of influenza complications like pregnant women and older adults -- need the flu shot. That's not to say that there isn't confusion and skepticism about how often it's required or whether we ought to get it at all.
Dr. Matthew Levy, D.O., assistant professor of emergency medicine at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, spoke with us and explained the case for annual flu immunization:
There's this message that if you get the flu shot, you're going to come down with the actual flu. I hear people say that after they get the shot, they feel ill. It's not from the shot, it's coincidental. There are people who say I got the shot and I got [the flu] anyway. The immune system is a remarkable thing. It remembers foreign things it has seen before. So, if every year you get a flu shot, your body doesn't forget that, [but] the flu changes. So, it is beneficial to get vaccinated every year.
Some shots that aren't necessary unless you fit specific circumstances. For instance, adults who have never had chickenpox or received the vaccination should be vaccinated against it. Two doses of the vaccine should be given at least four weeks apart.
Adults who have diabetes or at risk for hepatitis B are also advised to get that immunization.
Some shots are reserved for seniors and people with certain health conditions. For example, adults over 60 years old need the shingles vaccine.
Adults over 65 or those with conditions such as heart disease, lung disease, sickle cell disease, diabetes, or alcoholism need the shot for pneumococcal disease.
If you're ever wondering if you're up to date or need certain immunizations, it's best to speak with your own doctor about which shots are recommended for you and/or take this CDC quiz to determine which you need.
Why do you think there's so much confusion over which vaccines adults need? Are you up to date on yours?
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