Not Just for Kids: Adults Urged to Get Vaccinated

As people age, they know they should get an eye exam, have their cholesterol and blood pressure checked, and get that colonoscopy. One more thing, say Texas physicians, is making sure all vaccinations are up to date.

“We typically think of babies and school kids needing vaccinations,” said Dr. Lenore DePagter, an internal medicine specialist from McAllen and member of the Texas Medical Association’s  "Be Wise: Immunize" Physician Advisory Panel. “But vaccines aren’t just for kids. Over the years, as new vaccines have been developed, recommended shots for adults have been added.”

Adults may need as many as 10 vaccinations, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, depending on their jobs, lifestyles, health, and previous vaccination history. All adults need two vaccinations:

--A yearly flu shot. The CDC says nearly three-quarters of people hospitalized with flu-related illness are 65 or older, and most flu deaths are among elderly people. A variety of flu vaccines are now available: the traditional flu shot, a high-dose vaccine for people aged 65 and older, and an intradermal vaccine that uses a smaller needle injected into the skin instead of muscle. People should ask their doctor which is best. 

--A Td vaccination every 10 years to prevent tetanus and diphtheria. One time during adulthood, people should get Tdap vaccination which also prevents pertussis (whooping cough) to protect babies they’ll be around. Babies require a series of pertussis vaccinations, so they’re not fully protected until close to 18 months of age. The adult’s shot prevents him or her from passing potentially deadly whooping cough to the infant. (Whooping cough is usually milder for adults, so adults might not even know they have it.) 

Two other vaccinations are recommended for older adults:

--Pneumococcal, which prevents diseases including infections in the lungs and bloodstream. About 1 million Americans get pneumococcal pneumonia each year according to the CDC, and about half of them end up in the hospital. Two different shots are recommended for anyone over age 65 and younger adults who have chronic health conditions.

--Zoster, which protects against shingles, a painful rash caused by the same virus as chickenpox. Everyone over 60 years of age needs this one-time vaccination as risk increases with age. The shot can protect even those who have had shingles from another attack. 

“As we age, fighting off illness becomes more difficult,” said Dr. DePagter. “Vaccinations provide a boost to our immune systems to help prevent certain diseases, several of which can land someone in the hospital — and even be deadly.”

Whether a young adult or someone in the prime of their life, people need adult vaccinations recommended by the CDC. Physicians suggest individuals check with their doctor to see if all vaccinations are up to date. The CDC has this quick adult vaccine quiz to find out what patients should discuss with their doctor.

Most older adults have Medicare coverage, which pays for recommended vaccinations. Other insurance companies should pay for vaccinations at no cost to the patient. People who are uninsured might be eligible for vaccinations through the Texas Adult Safety Net program.

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