The Importance of Vaccines: Adults Need Them, Too

Many kids dread doctor’s visits in anticipation of getting their shots. From birth through their teen years, children should get a variety of shots to protect them from infections, diseases and viruses. They are among the most important things you can do for your child’s health, since vaccines have virtually wiped out some diseases that were life-threatening just a few decades ago.

What you may not realize, however, is that vaccines are important for adults, too. They help you stay healthy and are critical for avoiding debilitating diseases that are more difficult to recover from as you age.

“Many adults get a flu vaccine and think they’ve done everything they need to do to protect their health,” said Marie Kairys, MD, FAAFP, Clinical Assistant Professor in the Jefferson Department of Family and Community Medicine. “However, you will need vaccines throughout your lifetime related to your age, lifestyle, and travel habits.”

The Vaccine Schedule for Adults

While the majority of your vaccines will be administered in the first years of your life, there are few others that you should receive later.

All Adults

  • Flu vaccine: Once a year, you should receive a flu vaccine. It’s important to get it yearly since it protects you from the strains of flu that are most prevalent for that year. It’s especially important for people with health issues, pregnant women, and the elderly.

“Getting the flu means a few miserable days for most people,” said Dr. Kairys. “For the very young, very old, and people with health conditions, it can be more dangerous and even life-threatening, so it’s important to get vaccinated.”

  • Tdap and Td: Even if you did have the DTaP vaccine as a child, you should have the Tdap as an adult to protect you against pertussis (whooping cough) because the immunity weakens over time. Women should also get Tdap any time they are pregnant. Every 10 years, adults should have the Td (tetanus and diphtheria) booster shot.

Adults 19 to 26

Young adults should receive or complete the HPV vaccine, which protects against the human papilloma virus. HPV can lead to cervical cancer, anal cancer, and genital warts. Getting the vaccine helps to reduce the spread of this virus among sexually active people.

Adults 60 and Older

  • Pneumococcal vaccine: Adults over 65, as well as younger adults with certain health conditions, should receive the pneumococcal vaccine to help prevent pneumonia. You should receive a second dose one year after your first dose to complete your immunity.
  • Zoster vaccine: The Zoster vaccine is recommended for people over 60 to help protect from shingles. Shingles is a painful condition that can affect anyone who once had the chicken pox, and it’s most common in older adults.

Other Vaccines You May Need – or Not Need

You may need additional vaccines above and beyond those that are recommended for all adults if you plan to travel internationally or have certain health conditions.

In addition, if you have certain health conditions or allergies, some vaccines are not recommended due to their ingredients or how they may affect your body or your condition.

“It’s always a good idea to ask your doctor what vaccines are right for you, and be sure to mention if you are planning to travel, or have traveled, anywhere outside the United States,” said Dr. Kairys. “And remember to let your health care provider know about any medications or treatments that other doctors or specialists may have ordered for you.”

To find out which vaccinations you may need, schedule an annual checkup with your doctor now.


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