Most people know that kids need to get regular vaccines to stay healthy during childhood. But getting immunized is still important for adults — it’s just that the vaccines you need are a little different. Here are some key vaccines you should consider working into your wellness plan to protect yourself and others.
While the flu often just causes a week or two of fever, fatigue and respiratory symptoms, it can also become more serious. In the U.S. alone, the influenza virus leads to 140,000 to 810,000 hospitalizations and 12,000 to 61,000 deaths each year. Young children, people over 65, pregnant women and people with underlying medical conditions are most at risk of developing serious complications from the flu. But no one is immune from the more significant impacts of the flu, and anyone who catches the flu can spread it to the more vulnerable people in their lives.
For many people who had chicken pox as a child, it was an uncomfortable itchy experience that kept them out of school for a week or more. But chicken pox can also cause serious complications, such as pneumonia, infection or inflammation of the brain, and blood infections. A serious case of the chicken pox can lead to hospitalization or even death.
Depending on your age, you may or may not have been vaccinated against chicken pox as a child because the vaccine wasn’t released until 1995. If you’ve had a confirmed case of chicken pox, you don’t need to get vaccinated. Immunity acquired from infection typically lasts for life.
Adults who need the varicella vaccine should get a series of two shots, administered at least four weeks apart.
Shingles is a painful, burning rash caused by the varicella zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox. The rash typically only lasts two to four weeks. However, the CDC reports that, in 10% to 18% of cases, there is debilitating pain that can last for months or even years. The pain can be so severe that it interferes with your daily life. In rare cases, shingles can lead to pneumonia, hearing problems, blindness or even death.
Anyone who has had chickenpox is at risk of developing shingles. The CDC recommends that healthy adults ages 50 and older get two doses of the shingles vaccine, with the second shot given two to four months after the first.
Pneumonia is a serious (and potentially fatal) infection of the lungs caused by a bacterial, viral or fungal infection, including influenza. One pathogen that can cause pneumonia is a bacteria called Streptococcus pneumoniae. Infection with this bacteria causes pneumococcal disease, and pneumococcal pneumonia is the most common serious complication from infection.
The pneumococcal vaccine is recommended for all adults ages 65 and older. In addition, the CDC also recommends the vaccine for adults ages 19 to 64 who smoke cigarettes, have conditions that weaken the immune system, have cochlear impacts or are living with a chronic illness of the heart, lungs, liver or kidneys. Often only one dose is needed. However, the CDC recommends one or two additional doses for those with certain chronic medical conditions, so talk with your doctor.
HPV stands for human papillomavirus, which is a group of viruses that cause noncancerous warts. Some types of HPV can also lead to cancer of the cervix, anus, penis, vulva, vagina or throat. The HPV vaccine, which protects against infection with certain strains of human papillomavirus, can therefore help reduce your chances of developing these cancers.
The CDC recommends that everyone up to age 26 gets vaccinated against HPV. Adults require a series of three shots.
Tetanus (Tdap or Td)
Tetanus (commonly referred to as “lockjaw”) is a non-contagious infection with the bacteria Clostridium tetani, which can be found in the soil, dust and manure. It enters the body when the surface of the skin is breached due to a cut, puncture wound, burn or other injury. Thanks to vaccination, this painful and potentially fatal disease is extremely rare in the U.S.
Adults need a tetanus booster shot every 10 years. This shot is typically given in the form of a Tdap vaccine (which also protects against diphtheria and pertussis) or Td vaccine (which also protects against diphtheria).
If you questions about these vaccines or others, your Good Neighbor Pharmacy pharmacist can help.