When you think of vaccines, you probably immediately think about the series of shots given to young children with boosters throughout childhood. But vaccines aren’t just for young people. They can help anyone obtain immunity against illnesses and diseases that can cause discomfort, disruption, or in some cases, death.
Even so, adults often don’t receive recommended vaccines. A report issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identifies some reasons why:
- Vaccine implementation can be complex due to the management of other medical conditions, which may affect a doctor’s recommendation for immunization
- Immunizations are considered a low priority to many adults
- There is limited awareness of the need for adults to receive vaccines
- For those without health insurance, the cost can be prohibitive
- Even for those with health insurance, determining coverage can be confusing
- Maintaining an accurate history of immunizations can be difficult for people with multiple doctors, moves, or changes in primary care
The low rates of immunizations among adults is best illustrated by the influenza vaccine. Despite public awareness campaigns that include television advertisements and a push by medical providers and pharmacies on the benefits of receiving the flu shot, the 2014 National Health Interview Survey found that only 43.2 percent of adults between the ages of 19 and 64 received a flu shot and only 20.3 of adults over 65 received the pneumococcal vaccine, even though they are considered high risk for the illness.
The CDC recommends the following immunizations for adults:
Influenza: One dose per year. People with chronic health conditions should discuss which flu shot would be best, based on their risk factors.
Td/Tdap (Tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis): One immunization if not received during childhood, with a booster every 10 years
MMR (Measles, mumps, rubella): One or two doses if previously not vaccinated in childhood or there isn’t any indication of having had measles, mumps, and rubella. Women who are pregnant or people with weakened immune systems should not receive this vaccine.
VAR (Chickenpox): Two doses. Recommended for adults who have not previously been vaccinated or have not had the illnesses.
HZV (Shingles): One dose for those over 60 years old. Women who are pregnant and people with weakened immune systems should not receive this vaccine.
HPV (Human papillomavirus): Three doses for females under the age of 26 and for males under the age of 21.
PCV13 and PPSV23 (Pneumococcal): One dose recommended for those over the age of 65. Women who are pregnant and those with chronic health conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, and liver disease should talk to their doctor before receiving this vaccine.
In addition to the recommended vaccines, there are other immunizations your doctor might suggest based on your health history and risk factors. These include hepatitis A, hepatitis B, meningococcal, and haemophilus influenzae-type b vaccines.
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Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot's Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot's Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger's Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.