Immunizations for adults
Marti Reich is an infection preventionist at Banner Desert Medical Center in Mesa, Ariz.
Question: I know that immunizations are important for small children, but should adults be vaccinated? If so, which vaccines are most important?
Answer: Numerous illnesses are preventable through vaccinations, and adults can protect themselves and their loved ones by getting immunized, especially if they are caregivers for children or others with weakened immune systems.
Influenza is probably the most well-known illness that typically can be avoided with proper immunization. Everyone six months and older should receive an influenza vaccine annually.
The meningitis vaccine is recommended for teenagers and young adults, and new mothers or anyone with a baby in the household should have a booster against pertussis. Adults who have not had the chicken pox should receive varicella vaccine to protect them against an illness that can be dangerous if contracted in adulthood. The human papilloma virus vaccine is suggested for young women up to age 26, to help guard against the most common cause of cervical cancer. Adults over 60 should have the zoster vaccine to shield them from shingles, and also the pneumococcal vaccine.
Most individuals in the United States have been immunized against measles, mumps and rubella, but women who plan to become pregnant should confirm they are immune to rubella.
Being properly vaccinated is an important step to lessening the risk of serious illness. Though adults have more robust immune systems to handle illnesses like pertussis, the condition can be life-threatening to an infant. Thus, one of the best measures to keep infants healthy is to immunize the adults around them.
Always discuss the benefits and risks of any immunization with your physician to determine which vaccines are suggested based on your health history. Most vaccines are available through your physician's office, or your health-care provider can suggest a local clinic or pharmacy.