When you think of immunizations, you may think of kids at the pediatrician’s office. But actually, adults need immunizations, too. So how do you know what immunizations (also known as vaccines) you need — and when?
Each year, the CDC sets an immunization schedule for adults that is additionally reviewed and approved by the American Academy of Family Physicians, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American College of Physicians, and American College of Nurse-Midwives. Your doctor uses this guideline to help recommend vaccines for you as part of your annual checkup. Just like with screenings, the vaccines you need vary by your age and gender.
“Immunizations are an important part of preventive care and wellness,” said Dr. Alexandria Cooke, family medicine physician at UT Family Practice. “Vaccines are safe and effective. They play a vital role in keeping both individuals and the community safe and healthy.”
Let’s take a look at the vaccines commonly recommended for adults:
The flu vaccine is recommended for everyone 6 months and older. Because the formulation of the vaccine changes each year, it is important to get an annual flu shot.
The flu vaccine is typically available beginning mid to late September. Get your flu shot by October to ensure you’re protected when flu season begins.
This vaccine comes in a couple different formulations. The Td immunization protects against tetanus and diphtheria and is recommended for children 7 years and older, adolescents and adults. You should also get a booster shot every 10 years.
Additionally, you need at least one dose of the Tdap vaccine, which protects against all three diseases, particularly if you’ll be in close contact with a baby younger than age 1. It is important for pregnant women to receive a Tdap vaccine during each pregnancy, as it helps provide the baby with protection from the disease after birth. This is commonly known as the “whooping cough” vaccine.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly one in three people in the United States will develop shingles at some point in their lifetime. The condition causes pain or tingling of the skin, along with a rash of blister-like sores along one side of the body. Adults older than age 50 should receive two doses of the shingles vaccine, even if they’ve already had shingles.
Pneumonia is common, but in some people, it can have serious or even fatal complications. There are two types of pneumococcal vaccines — the pneumococcal conjugate vaccines (PCV13, PCV15 or PCV20) and pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV23).
The CDC recommends that adults age 65 and older who have never received a pneumococcal conjugate vaccine should receive PCV15 (followed by PPSV23) or PCV20. Your doctor may recommend the immunization at a younger age if you are at an increased risk of pneumonia.
Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
There are three vaccines that help prevent infections with the types of HPV that are associated with certain kinds of cancer. While it is recommended to receive these vaccines before a person becomes sexually active, they can also be administered afterward and can provide some level of protection.
The CDC recommends that women age 26 and younger and men age 21 and younger receive three doses of the HPV vaccine.
The COVID-19 primary series vaccines are recommended for everyone 6 months and older. COVID-19 booster vaccines are recommended for everyone 5 years and older, if eligible.
Those who are moderately or severely immunocompromised have specific recommendations for COVID-19 vaccines and should discuss with their doctor. This vaccine can be administered on the same day as other vaccines.
If you’re traveling…
Other immunizations may be required if you are heading overseas. If you are planning a trip out of the country, it is important to find out what vaccines are needed and receive them in advance of the trip.
Not sure what immunizations you need? Fill out this destination form to learn what vaccines and other preventive measures you may need prior to travel.
Your doctor can recommend age-appropriate immunizations that are right for you at your next checkup. Need a doctor? Check out Erlanger Community Health Centers or make an appointment at one of our convenient Erlanger Primary Care locations.