Kids learn early on that a trip to the doctor’s office might involve a shot. But did you know that the most recent medical recommendations encourage adults to make sure they stay current on their immunizations, as well?
“Typically when people think of vaccines they think of young children,” says Edward Dominguez, MD, medical director, organ transplant/infectious disease for Methodist Dallas Medical Center. “As adults, we lose sight of them. We forget that vaccines have helped eradicate diseases such as polio and smallpox or that they keep dangerous ailments from spreading not only to us but also to those we love," Dr. Dominguez adds.
Now that you know vaccines should be on your radar, here are some things to keep in mind.
Don’t skip the flu shot
Dr. Dominguez says the vaccine for influenza, or flu, for short, should top the list annually for adults.
“There are still many attributable deaths to influenza,” Dr. Dominguez says. "And the older a person is, the more likely he or she might suffer from flu complications," he adds.
“A very large burden of the disease could be minimized with the routine vaccine,” he says.
There are perks for older adults…
Older adults can take advantage of the pneumonia and shingles vaccines, because of their risk for complications from the diseases. The pneumonia vaccine is available for most adults at ages 65 and the shingles vaccine at age 60.
… and for younger adults
Adults ages 26 and younger might still be eligible for the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, which prevents the four strains of HPV responsible for causing most cervical and anal cancers.
You’re preventing a pandemic
If you have wondered why more people are talking about adult vaccinations in recent years, it is because medical professionals are taking a broader approach in addressing what many seem as potential pandemics. These large-scale outbreaks can be devastating once they get started.
“Until about four or five years ago, we did not routinely recommend for universal vaccinations,” Dr. Dominguez explains. However, now the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends everyone receive influenza vaccines annually to prevent any outbreaks or pandemics.
“Vaccines help to minimize the spread of disease,” Dr. Dominguez says.
Adults can need extra protection
Once adults have the Tdap vaccine (for tetanus, diphtheria, and acellular pertussis, more commonly known as whooping cough), they should plan on a booster with the Td vaccine every 10 years.
Also, adults who work in at-risk environments, such as medical professionals with exposure to certain diseases or people traveling outside the country where certain conditions are more prevalent, might need other vaccines, like hepatitis A and B.
Check in with your physician
Those who want to make sure they are caught up on vaccines can check out the CDC’s guidelines or check in with their health care providers.
“We have such informed patients because of the available resources, and these lists are a couple of clicks away on the Internet,” Dr. Dominguez says.
Keep in mind that a number of factors can influence which vaccines are appropriate for you, including age, pregnancy, lifestyle, pre-existing or past health conditions, profession, foreign travel, and past vaccines. To help your doctor stay on top of your vaccines, be sure to consistently track them.
“Please share them with your physician so he or she can enter them in your medical record,” Dr. Dominguez says. “In case of an emergency, your care providers will know which vaccines are protecting you — and which aren’t.”
Texas law prohibits hospitals from practicing medicine. The physicians on the Methodist Health System medical staff are independent practitioners who are not employees or agents of Methodist Health System or any of its affiliated hospitals.