By Dr. Cornelius Ferreira, system chair of primary care, Nuvance Health
Getting vaccinated is a lifelong, life-protecting job. Immunity from childhood vaccines can wear off over time. Don’t leave your healthcare provider’s office without making sure you’ve had all the vaccinations you need.
In recognition of National Immunization Awareness month, here are some adult vaccinations that help protect from many life-threatening diseases.
Tetanus, diphtheria, whooping cough (pertussis) (Tdap, Td)
If you haven’t had a dose of Tdap during your lifetime, you need to get a Tdap shot now. This is the adult whooping cough vaccine. All women need to get a dose during each pregnancy. After your initial dose, you need a Td or Tdap booster every 10 years. Consult your doctor if you haven’t had at least 3 tetanus- and diphtheria-toxoid containing shots sometime in your life or if you have a deep or dirty wound.
Why it’s important: Tdap can protect you from tetanus (lockjaw), whooping cough (pertussis) and diphtheria, which can lead to breathing problems.
Pneumococcal (Pneumovax 23, PPSV23; Prevnar 13, Prevnar 20, PCV13)
If you are younger than 65 and have a certain high-risk condition, you need one or both vaccines. High-risk populations are those with asthma, heart, lung or kidney disease, people who are immunosuppressed, smoke or have a nonfunctioning spleen. At age 65 (or older), you will need PPSV23, and you may also be given PCV13 (if you haven’t had it before) after a discussion with your doctor.
Why it’s important: Pneumococcal disease causes infections, such as pneumonia, meningitis and bloodstream infections.
If you are age 50 or older, you should get the two-dose series of the Shingrix brand of shingles vaccine, even if you already were vaccinated with Zostavax.
Why it’s important: While not life-threatening, shingles can be very painful.
Human papillomavirus (HPV)
You should get this vaccine if you are age 26 or younger. Adults ages 27 through 45 may also be vaccinated after a discussion with their healthcare provider. The vaccine is usually given in three doses over a six-month period.
Why it’s important: HPV is a common virus that can lead to cancer.
Measles, mumps, rubella (MMR)
You need at least one dose of MMR vaccine if you were born in 1957 or later. You may also need a second dose if you are a healthcare worker or traveling internationally. However, people with weakened immune systems should not get MMR in most cases. Speak to your doctor.
Why it’s important: MMR protects you from the measles, a potentially serious disease, as well as mumps and rubella.
These are just some of the vaccinations you may need. Don’t forget about your annual influenza (flu) vaccination and to follow the CDC’s latest guidelines regarding COVID-19 vaccination and booster recommendations. You may need others, too, based on your age, health conditions, job, lifestyle or travel habits.
The best way to stay abreast of the vaccinations you need is to schedule your annual wellness exam or physical where your healthcare provider will review your vaccination history and preventive care needs.
What if I don’t know my vaccination status?
To gather information about your status, look at your electronic health records (at Nuvance Health, log in to your Patient Portal), and talk to your parents or other caregivers. Check with your doctor's office, as well as any previous healthcare providers’ offices, schools and employers. Or contact your state health department to see if it has a registry that includes adult immunizations.
If you can't find your records, your doctor might be able to do blood tests to see if you are immune to certain diseases that can be prevented by vaccines. You might need to get some again.
Here are other Centers for Disease Control and Prevention resources that may help: