While most people are aware of the need to vaccinate children, immunizations for adults are just as important. But unfortunately, adult immunization rates are well below government goals.
According to the American College of Physicians, 40,000 to 50,000 adults die from vaccine preventable diseases each year in the U.S.
Knowing what vaccines to get and when to get them can be tricky, especially if you have a complicated medical history.
“By talking to your internist, you can assess your vaccination status and find out what steps you need to take to stay healthy,” says David L. Bronson, MD, FACP, president, American College of Physicians, a national organization of internal medicine physicians.
Don’t wait until it’s too late. Be proactive and ask your physician at your next appointment what shots you are due to receive. Here are some recommended immunizations to discuss:
Flu / Influenza
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all adults receive the influenza vaccine each year. Despite the wide accessibility of the shot, which is often administered in workplaces and retailers, only 39 percent of adults received the vaccine in the 2011-2012 flu season.
This season, be sure to protect yourself against the flu. The vaccine is especially important for seniors and those with chronic conditions for whom the flu can be life-threatening. Just be aware that not all forms of the vaccine are recommended for everyone. If you have an immune system disorder or are pregnant, talk with your physician.
Tetanus, Diphtheria & Whooping Cough
According to the CDC, five percent of adults with whooping cough are hospitalized or have complications, including pneumonia and death. Protect yourself against this dangerous disease, as well as diphtheria and tetanus by getting the Tdap vaccination. Follow up with booster tetanus (Td) shots every 10 years.
Tdap vaccination is recommended for nearly all adults, including persons 65 years and older; but is especially important for pregnant women, adults who are in contact with infants, and health care professionals. If you are not sure if you’re due, check with your doctor about getting vaccinated.
If you never had these diseases as a child, nor were immunized against them, talk with your internist. These diseases, which can have serious complications for adults, are highly contagious and can be caught just by talking with an infected person. One series of two shots protects you.
Infections of the lungs, blood, or brain caused by this bacteria lead to 22,000 deaths each year in the U.S. A single shot protects against them. If you have chronic health conditions or you’re over 65 and your pneumococcal vaccination was more than five years ago, ask your internist if you need a booster.
More information on adult immunizations can be found at www.acponline.org.
So much of your health is based on chance. Keeping up with adult vaccinations is one way you can take control of your health and safety. If you can’t remember the last time you were immunized, talk to your doctor about getting back on track.
There are many local places where you can get immunized. Check with your health care provider for more information on which immunizations are right for you and where you can go for your vaccinations.