Shots for Grown-Ups
August 2019 Issue
By Dr. Robyn Odzark, Beaufort Memorial Bluffton Primary Care
A lot of us grew up in an age of miracle cures.
The antibiotics and vaccines of the mid-twentieth century
were so effective that we are fortunate we don’t even
remember how dreaded—even deadly—polio, tuberculosis
and other diseases were, which are all but unknown now.
With these blessings came a bit of complacency. For instance, have you been getting your annual flu shot? Do you know what other vaccines are recommended for your age and medical history? If you’re planning a trip abroad, do you know what immunizations you might need to stay protected?
Since August is National Immunization Awareness Month, let it serve as a reminder to get those much-needed vaccinations.
Why get vaccinated?
The first reason to get your shots is to protect yourself against illness, as there are several serious diseases that can be prevented by vaccination like influenza, which kills thousands of people each year; pneumonia, which is particularly dangerous for older adults; and shingles, an extremely painful skin rash.
Other shots are necessary because of waning immunity. The protection from the initial vaccination,
which you may have received as a child, decreases over time. Booster shots, which are given after the initial vaccinations, provide continued protection. In addition, some adults never received certain vaccinations in childhood and need to get them now.
And, getting immunized doesn’t just protect your own health, it also protects the health of those around you.
Recommended Adult Vaccinations:
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends different vaccines at different ages. Below is a list of important immunizations you should get as an adult and when you should receive them.
> Influenza: Get your flu shot every year to reduce your chances of being infected with the three or four influenza viruses researchers expect will be most common during the season.
> Tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis: After your first dose of Tdap (a combination of the three vaccinations), you need a booster for tetanus and diphtheria every 10 years. In addition to protecting you against tetanus and diphtheria, the Tdap protects against pertussis, also known as whooping cough. In healthy individuals this can be an annoying cough that lasts three to four months. However, in the elderly, babies, and anyone immunocompromised or with chronic lung conditions, this can be a very serious and even life-threatening infection. So, not only do we want to protect ourselves, we also want to make sure we don’t spread it to any high-risk individuals you may be around.
> Shingles: Almost one out of every three Americans will develop shingles in their lifetime. The herpes zoster vaccine is recommended for adults age 50 and older. There is a new shingles vaccine called Shindrix that came out in 2017. This is a two-dose vaccine, given two to six months apart. This vaccine has been shown to be much more effective than the previous Zostivax vaccine, and it is recommended that everyone get the new Shindrix vaccine, even if previously vaccinated with Zostivax.
> Pneumococcal: There are two vaccines (Pneumococcal 23 and Prevnar 13) that are recommended for adults age 65 and older to prevent some cases of pneumonia, bacterial meningitis and sepsis. Your doctor may recommend getting one or both of the pneumonia vaccines prior to age 65 if you are higher risk for serious complications from a pneumonia infection.
> Measles, mumps and rubella: You may need the MMR vaccine if you were born in the U.S. after 1957 and were not vaccinated.
> Human Papillomavirus (HPV): This vaccine (called Gardasil) protects against the HPV virus, which is sexually transmitted. Certain strains of this virus have been shown to cause cervical and other various types of genital cancers. The great thing about Gardasil is that it’s the only vaccine known to prevent certain forms of cancer. It can be given as early as nine years old. Previously it was only given up until age 26; however, recently recommendations have changed, and now the vaccine can be given up to age 45.
In addition, depending on your age, lifestyle, job and health conditions, you may need other vaccinations, including meningococcal disease, hepatitis A, and chickenpox.
International travelers may require additional vaccines to protect themselves from diseases that are rare in the United States but prevalent in some foreign lands. The CDC Travelers’ Health website features travel notices and information on the recommended vaccines for countries all over the world.
Vaccines prevent diseases that can be dangerous
and deadly. Talk with your primary care provider
to be sure you’re fully protected.
Dr. Robyn Odzark, a board-certified family medicine physician, recently joined Beaufort Memorial Bluffton Primary Care in Westbury Park. She comes to the Lowcountry from Michigan, where she practiced with the University of Michigan Health System.