Adult Immunizations: You’re Never to Old for an Ounce of Prevention

Courtesy of Centennial Medical Center

If you thought immunizations were just for children, think again. Adults also may need several different vaccinations as they get older, including influenza, pneumonia, tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis, meningitis, chickenpox, measles, mumps, rubella, human papillomavirus, hepatitis A and B, and herpes zoster (shingles). So talk with your doctor about any necessary vaccines and get ready to roll up your shirtsleeve. But don’t worry, this will only hurt a little bit.

“Immunizations expose you to a very small, very safe amount of infection to help trigger your immune system to recognize and prevent certain diseases. If you are vaccinated against a disease and then exposed to it later, you will either not contract the infection or experience a much milder case,” explains Dr Mitra Canales, an internal medicine physician practicing at Centennial Medical Center in Frisco.

People over the age of 50, as well as those with a chronic illness, such as diabetes, heart disease or asthma should have the flu vaccine. This vaccination also may be recommended if you have a weakened immune system, work in a healthcare setting, or live in a long-term care facility. Flu vaccinations are given once a year, usually in October or November.

Until the late 1930s, pneumonia was the number one cause of death in the United States, but thanks to improved antibiotics, pneumonia now ranks as the eighth most common cause of death in the US. Pneumonia results in inflammation in the lungs and is caused by 30 different types of bacteria, viruses, mycoplasms, fungi, other infectious agents and certain chemicals. When the lungs become inflamed, the air sacs, which are where the blood gets oxygen, fill with pus and other fluids making the oxygen exchange more difficult. Pneumonia may develop suddenly and cause difficulty breathing, severe cough, chest pain, fever and chills.

Because older adults, people with chronic diseases, and anyone with an impaired immune system are at higher risk for developing pneumonia Dr Canales recommends that if you are over 65 or have had your spleen removed that you have a pneumonia vaccine to protect you against infections of the lungs, blood and brain. This vaccine also may be appropriate if you have a chronic illness, weakened immune system, or live in a nursing home and have not previously received this vaccine.

The tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (Tdap) vaccine is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for adults 19 to 64 years of age if it has been more than 10 years since their last tetanus vaccine. Tdap protects against lockjaw, whooping cough and pertussis, which is a severe infection of the nose, throat or airway.

Additional vaccines also may be recommended:

The Zoster vaccine to prevent shingles, a painful skin rash, may be given to adults age 60 or over.
Those most likely to benefit from the meningitis vaccine are those who have a non-functioning or missing spleen, college freshmen living in dormitories, military recruits, and certain international travelers.
You should have the chickenpox vaccine if you have never had the disease or if you cannot remember if you have had it or not.
The measles, mumps, rubella vaccine should be given to people who were born during or after 1957 and never received the vaccination, as well as health care workers, college students, and international travelers.
The human papillomavirus vaccine is recommended for women up to age 26 to protect them against infections that could cause cervical cancer.
Hepatitis A and B vaccines may benefit people who are at risk of contracting infection due to lifestyle or occupational exposure.
For more information about adult immunizations, talk with your doctor or visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at for a complete schedule of recommended vaccinations.