Vaccination programs for children have a proven track record. Few of us can remember epidemics of polio, measles, and other often fatal diseases. The overwhelming majority of young children receive the CDC recommended immunizations. However, the adult population often remains under-immunized. This may occur because many adults do not know that they would benefit from vaccines. While the adult vaccine schedule does not have as many immunizations as the child schedule, there are several vaccines that adults can benefit from to optimize their health.
The influenza (“flu shot”)vaccine is recommended for all adults, especially those with chronic disease (heart disease, diabetes), and pregnant women after the first trimester. The flu can lead to missed days of work or school, hospitalization, and in rare cases, death. Please discuss with your doctor if you have an allergy to eggs, as most vaccines have some small amounts of egg in the vaccine. Since the vaccine does not contain any live, or active virus, you CANNOT get the flu from the vaccine. If you get sick afterwards, it may be either an unrelated common cold, or you were already exposed to the flu virus before receiving the vaccine.
Every 10 years, it is recommended that adults receive a tetanus booster (Td vaccine) to prevent lockjaw. Because of recent outbreaks of whooping cough (a prolonged cough illness that can be fatal to infants), we now recommend that at least one tetanus booster be the form that also has a vaccine against whooping cough, or pertussis (Tdap vaccine). This Tdap booster is especially important for people who are around infants, such as young parents, grandparents, daycare teachers, and healthcare workers.
The shingles vaccine should be given to patients over 50 who have a history of chicken pox. It acts to decrease the chance of getting shingles, and may decrease the severity of a shingles outbreak if one still occurs.
Hepatitis is a contagious infection of the liver. It can lead to liver failure, and in extreme cases, liver cancer and death. Adults that are at risk for getting hepatitis include those who are in the healthcare industry, those in close contact with other with hepatitis, food preparers, homosexual men, and those who use intravenous drugs. Recent recommendations also encourage immunization of those with weakened immune systems, such as diabetics and people with heart disease.
There are other vaccines that may be indicated based on your personal medical history and profile. Please discuss with your primary care physician for a complete recommendation of immunizations needed.