Most people think vaccines are just for children, but adults also can benefit from them. In fact, some vaccines are made specifically to protect against adult-type diseases, such as shingles or pneumonia.
“Vaccines are extremely important, even for adults,” says Maryann Fumo, MD, a Franciscan Physician Network internal medicine physician based in Michigan City. “I look at my patients’ immunization records at every visit to make sure they are up-to-date and protected.”
While many vaccines and boosters benefit adults, Dr. Fumo suggests patients get an annual influenza vaccination, the shingles vaccine for patients over age 60, and the pneumococcal pneumonia vaccine for individuals over age 65, or earlier, for those with chronic health conditions.
“Most every adult needs a flu vaccine every year,” says Dr. Fumo. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends persons six months of age and older receive an annual flu vaccine, unless they have a specific medical reason not to get the vaccine. The vaccine is created to protect against the strains of respiratory influenza that are anticipated to be the most common in the upcoming flu season.
Adults who had chickenpox as a child are at risk of getting shingles, a virus that occurs when the chickenpox virus flares up in the body and results in a severe and painful skin rash. As a person ages, the risk for developing shingles increases.
“I highly recommend all my patients age 60 and over get the shingles vaccine,” says Dr. Fumo. “Shingles can be extremely painful. The vaccine can’t completely prevent someone from getting shingles, but it can decrease a person’s chance of getting it and can decrease the severity of symptoms.”
The pneumococcal vaccine protects against pneumococcal pneumonia, a severe bacterial strain. The vaccine especially is important to get if you smoke, or have chronic health conditions, such as asthma, heart or lung disease or diabetes.
Says Dr. Fumo, “The strains the vaccine protect against has a high morbidity and mortality rate. For patients with underlying health diseases, it can be a very severe illness.”
Other vaccinations adults should consider are those that protect against human papillomavirus (which can cause certain cancers), meningococcal disease, hepatitis B, hepatitis A, tetanus, pertussis, measles, mumps, and rubella.
“Most of my patients are very open to the idea of staying current with their adult vaccines; but when necessary, I do remind them that I am fully up-to-date with my own vaccinations and I stress vaccine importance to my own grown adult children, because I know vaccines work,” says Dr. Fumo.
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