With the school year starting up again soon, August is appropriately designated as National Immunization Awareness Month. But long after we’re students we still need to keep our vaccinations up to date.
“As we age, our immune system faces different challenges both in the types of diseases we encounter and how our body fights to protect against them,” writes Nicole C. Woitowich, PhD, director of science outreach and education at Northwestern University’s Women’s Health Research Institute. “In addition, women may need additional immunizations at certain points in their life, especially if they become pregnant.” The Women’s Health Research Institute provides the below list of adult immunizations.
College-Aged and Young Adults
Meningococcal conjugate vaccine to help protect against bacterial meningitis, a serious infection of the brain and spinal cord. While meningitis is rare, outbreaks can occur in close quarters like university dorms. College freshmen are advised to vaccinate before heading to campus.
Human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine to prevent infection caused by several strains of the sexually transmitted disease HPV, which are known to increase the risk for cervical, oral and some other types of cancers. This vaccine is recommended for both men and young women under the age of 26.
As long as you received the recommended vaccinations as a child and teen, your vaccine requirements are based on your personal immunization and medical history. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) suggests that adults get:
Influenza vaccine to help protect against the flu. Unlike most other vaccines, the flu vaccine is administered yearly, prior to each flu season or at any point during flu season, and reformulated annually to protect against three or four strains most likely to cause illness that year. This is also recommended for all pregnant women regardless of age.
Tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (TDaP) vaccination to protect against the three diseases named in the vaccine. Adults who have not received the TDaP vaccine should get one as soon as possible and then have a booster vaccination every 10 years. This is also recommended for all pregnant women regardless of age.
Measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccination to protect against the three diseases named in the vaccine. Adults should get either this vaccine or an up-to-date blood test that indicates immunity to measles or mumps.
Varicella vaccination to protect against chickenpox. This is recommended for adults who have never had chickenpox, or you can get a blood test to show you are immune to the disease.
Adults Over 60
Additional vaccines are recommended for seniors, whose immune system begins to weaken with age.
Herpes zoster vaccination to protect against shingles, a painful skin rash caused by infection with the same virus that causes chickenpox, which can remain dormant in our bodies many years after a childhood bout with chickenpox. Adults over 60 should get the herpes zoster vaccination regardless of whether they remember having chickenpox.
Pneumococcal vaccination in a series of two vaccinations to help protect against pneumonia and other bacterial diseases such as bacteremia and meningitis. This is recommended at age 65 and over. Pneumonia can have devastating health consequences for older adults, and vaccination is the number one way to prevent infection.