Many people believe that immunizations are only for children. Adults also need immunizations to help protect them against certain diseases. Sometimes immunizations are needed to "boost" protection that may be wearing off, or to make up for immunizations that were not given during childhood. Some immunizations are needed only after a person reaches adulthood.
What immunizations do most adults need?
Immunizations requirements for adults depend upon age, health status, lifestyle and occupation. The immunizations that are most commonly needed by adults are listed below along with general guidelines on who should receive them.
Recommended immunizations for most adults
18-64 Years - Tetanus-diphtheria
Recommended under certain circumstances - Hepatitis B
Tetanus - Diphtheria (Td)
Tetanus (lockjaw) is a dangerous disease which is spread when germs from dust and soil get into cuts, scratches, or other injuries. Diphtheria is an infection of the nose, throat, and windpipe. The disease is transmitted through the air and by discharges from the nose and throat. Both of these serious illnesses are easy to prevent with one combination vaccine. All adults should receive this vaccine every 10 years. Adults who have never been immunized before should receive a series of 3 doses, followed by a booster dose every 10 years.
Measles (Rubella, Red Measles)
Measles is a rash illness which is the most serious of the so-called "childhood" diseases. In reality, adults also get measles and the disease can be very serious.
Adults born in 1957 or later should check with their physicians or the local public health unit to see if they need a measles immunization. Some people who were immunized between 1963 and 1967 may have been vaccinated improperly, so a second dose of vaccine might be needed. People born before 1957 probably have already been exposed to measles naturally, so they do not need to be immunized.
Mumps is usually a mild disease, with fever and swelling of the lymph glands in the neck. The virus is spread through the air and by contact with saliva. Serious complications such as deafness and painful swelling of the testicles or ovaries may occur. All unvacinated adults born after 1956 should get mumps vaccine if they have never had the disease.
Rubella (German Measles)
Rubella is a mild rash illness which can cause serious birth defects if a woman gets the disease during the first few months of her pregnancy. All women of childbearing age need to be protected against rubella. Other adults, both men and women, who have not had a rubella immunization or immunity proven by a blood test should be vaccinated. If all adults are immune, it will help to prevent the spread of the disease to pregnant women.
Nearly every year, complications of influenza kill thousands of adults in the United States. Most of those killed are people with long-term health problems or those over the age of 65. Influenza vaccine should be given annually to people any age with chronic heart or lung problems, diabetes, kidney disease, anemia, or weakened immune systems. Yearly vaccination is also strongly recommended for residents of nursing homes, health professionals who have contact with the high-risk people listed above and all adults who are 65 or older.
Pneumococcal bacteria can cause pneumonia and blood infections. People who have chronic heart, lung, kidney, or immune system problems, and those over age 65 are at highest risk of dying from pneumococcal pneumonia. These people should receive the pneumococcal vaccine. For most people, ONE dose gives lifelong protection.
Hepatitis B is a serious liver disease which can lead to cirrhosis or live cancer. People may carry the virus for long periods of time and infect many others through blood or sexual contact. A series of 3 immunizations will help protect people at high risk of hepatitis B. Those people at risk include health care workers who are exposed to blood, kidney dialysis patients, homosexual or bisexual males, people who use intravenous drugs, sexual contacts of people who carry the virus, and residents and staff of institutions for the mentally retarted.
Polio vaccine may be recommended for adults traveling to developing countries or working in jobs that may expose them to the polio virus. Parents and other child care takers who are not protected against polio should consult their doctor if they take care of a child receiving the routine oral polio vaccine series. In addition, some people may have an increased risk of certain other diseases because of their jobs, lifestyles, medical conditions, or travel plans. Check with your physician or the Volusia County Health Department to see if you fit into any of the groups with special immunization needs.
It is a myth that the very frail or chronically ill should not be vaccinated.
These persons are at no greater risk of harm from vaccines than anyone else. In fact, because they are at greater risk from disease and complications, they are in greater need of the protection given by vaccinations.
It is a myth that influenza vaccine can cause the flu.
Influenza vaccine contains only killed viruses which are incapable of causing the disease.
Contact your doctor or the Florida Department of Health in Volusia County for vaccinations.