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When it comes to vaccines, many adults are concerned only with their annual flu shot and the occasional tetanus booster. However, vaccines are not only recommended for children and adolescents. A number of newer vaccines, as well as heightened risks of some diseases, have raised the importance of adult vaccines. Talk to your IMA primary care physician about which vaccines he/she recommends to protect your health throughout your adult life.
Probably the best known of all adult vaccines, your annual influenza immunization protects against seasonal flu viruses and the H1N1 (swine) flu, and is recommended for all adults. The Centers for Disease Control update the strains included in this vaccine because flu viruses evolve. FluMist (nasal spray flu vaccine) can be administered to healthy children and adults ages 2 to 49 as an alternative to the flu shot.
The pneumonia vaccine can prevent this infection of the lungs that kills more people around the world than any other infectious disease. This vaccine is recommended for all adults older than 65, and for children and people who are at high risk for disease (e.g., sickle cell disease, HIV infection, or other immune system compromising conditions). It is also recommended for adults 19-64 who smoke cigarettes or who have asthma.
Adults who are not already immune to chickenpox (through childhood exposure) are less likely to become infected with chickenpox than children are, but are more likely to die of complications from associated bacterial infections.
The vaccine Varivax is recommended for all adults who are not already immune to chickenpox as well as women who have recently given birth and who are not already immune. Pregnant women and those adults with compromised immune systems should not receive the Varivax vaccine.
Shingles is a painful, blistering skin rash due to the virus that causes chickenpox. After you have chickenpox, the virus remains inactive (becomes dormant) in certain nerves in the body. Shingles occurs after the virus becomes active again in these nerves years later.
You are more likely to develop the condition if you are 60 or older, if you had chickenpox before age 1 or if your immune system is weakened.
The vaccine Zostavax protects against shingles. Adults 60 or older should receive one dose. The shot can be given to adults over age 50 as well.
HPV and Cervical Cancer
The Gardasil vaccine offers protection from two types of human papillomavirus (HPV) that cause cervical cancer and two types of HPV that cause genital warts. All females between the ages of 13 and 26 should receive three doses of the vaccine over a six-month period. The immunization series is also recommended for males between the ages of 9 and 26 lessen the possibility of contracting genital warts.
The Hepatitis B vaccine has been recommended for adults over the age of 18 since 1982. Hepatitis B, caused by the virus of the same name, is an infection that can lead to cirrhosis and liver cancer. The vaccine is administered in three doses, but should not be given to patients with a yeast allergy.
Hepatitis B is spread through contact with blood or body fluid of an infected person. This includes needle, razor or toothbrush sharing, being pricked by a used needle or diabetes testing supplies, and unprotected sex.
Meningococcal (menegitis, sepsis)
This vaccine is recommended for adults 19-21 who live in a residence hall or close contact with others. Meningococcal is the leading cause of meningitis and sepsis. It can be transmitted through saliva and less frequently through close, extended contact with an infected person.
Tetanus, Diphtheria, Pertussis
Most adults are familiar with Tetanus or “lockjaw.” However Diththeria, which causes a thick covering at the back of the throat and can lead to breathing problems, paralysis, heart failure and even death; as well as Pertussis (whooping cough) are less thought of as adult diseases.
The Tdap vaccine is designed to prevent all three of these diseases in adults. A single dose of Tdap is recommended for those 11-64.