Although you may associate them with childhood, vaccines remain important at any age.
“Vaccinations are an important part of staying healthy for all adults,” said OMRF President Stephen Prescott, M.D.
For starters, he said, make a point of getting the annual flu shot. It’s an every-year necessity, as the virus mutates constantly.
“The flu shot is one that we know we should get, but that doesn’t mean we all get it,” said Prescott. “It’s not perfect, but it is your single best defense against the flu.”
The combined vaccine for tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (known as whooping cough) should also be on your checklist, said Prescott. All adults should receive this vaccine—known as DTaP or TDaP—if they didn’t as children, and then a tetanus and diphtheria booster every 10 years after.
Since the introduction of the vaccine, cases of tetanus and diphtheria have dropped by 99 percent, and whooping cough has been reduced by 80 percent. But those numbers are expected to climb.
“I really encourage this for protection from all three, but pertussis in particular has had a large resurgence in adults because of the waning in immunization for children,” said Prescott.
Two more key vaccines come along once you’re a little longer in the tooth.
The FDA recently lowered the vaccination age for shingles to 50, and doctors say the new shingles vaccine, Shingrix, is a must. It’s also recommended that you get the new vaccine even if you’ve previously received the first shingles vaccine, Zostavax.
“If you have ever had chicken pox, the shingles virus is already in your body, and as you get older your immune system becomes less equipped to keep it at bay,” said Prescott. “This new vaccine is superior and everyone should get it as soon as they are eligible. The risk rises with age, so get it as soon as you can to be safe.”
Another must-have for adults age 65 and up is the pneumococcal vaccine. The CDC also recommends the vaccine for children younger than 2, but it’s important to receive it again later in life.
Pneumococcal symptoms can range from ear and sinuses infections to pneumonia and bloodstream infections. It can even be fatal. There are two primary vaccines for pneumococcus, PCV13 and PPSV23, that you should receive about one year apart.
Other vaccines are a little more specialized and the need for them depends on your lifestyle, travel habits, health condition or other factors. These include yellow fever, hepatitis A and B, and HPV. If you never received the MMR vaccine—measles, mumps and rubella—you should also consider getting one now because the number of cases is on the rise as fewer people immunize their children.
“You should ask your doctor for advice on which additional ones you need for your circumstances,” said Prescott. “The important takeaway message is: get vaccinated. Many of the vaccines you’ll need as you age will give you the best shot at long-term health and can even save your life.”