Facts about Vaccinations

Adult vaccinations are part of preventive health care. Vaccinations can be especially critical for people with chronic diseases such as diabetes, since flu and other illnesses can make routine medications less effective, throw off health goals such as maintaining stable blood sugar, and reduce a person’s ability to care for him- or herself. For America’s growing population of older adults, vaccinations may head off potentially deadly disease complications—a bout of influenza leading to a trip to the hospital for pneumonia, for example.

Vaccinations can also be a good way to establish a medical home with a primary care provider. Preventive health doctor visits are a good time to discuss other preventive health goals and ask questions about minor symptoms in a less urgent setting. Don’t forget to tell your doctor about any special circumstances that could affect your vaccination needs, including your work, your recreation, and your travel plans.

For adults without a regular doctor, immunizations are one of the few preventive care tools widely available through public clinics, drugstores and community vaccination drives.

Who Gets What Vaccine?

There are a number of vaccines that are commonly recommended for adults:

  • Flu- Seasonal influenza vaccinations are a must for all adults, since the major strains of flu changes from year to year.
  • Tetanus- Tetanus shots should be given every ten years, or more often for people who rock climb or do other sports that could result in cutting your skin.
  • Pneumonia- Important for those 65 and older, along with people who have underlying heart, lung or immune disorders.
  • Shingles- Shingles is caused by the reactivated chicken pox virus, which lies dormant in the nervous system, and can be very painful. The vaccine is recommended for adults 60 and older.
  • Meningitis- College students and soldiers bunking in dorms and barracks should receive meningitis vaccinations, since the close-quarters living makes them prone to potentially deadly outbreaks.
  • Hepatitis B vaccines are recommended for all sexually active adults, emergency personnel, health care workers and those who work with small children.
  • Human Papillomavirus (HPV) can cause genital warts and cancer including cervical, vulvar, vaginal, penile, anal and oropharyngeal. A three shot series is available for females and males between the ages of 9 and 26 years to protect against diseases.
  • International travelers may need to get shots for yellow fever, typhoid, hepatitis A and polio, depending on their destination.

We’ve reviewed these resources to help you stay on track to receive the right immunizations:

Are Vaccines Safe?

Some people have concerns about vaccine safety, especially when it comes to their children’s vaccines. Many resources are available to offer reassurance on the evidence of vaccine safety. Be sure to read about this topic through accredited organizations and trusted websites.

Where Do I Go to Get Vaccinated?

Your primary care physician can help you stay up-to-date on your vaccinations. Most health plans cover the cost of vaccines, but you may want to verify with your insurance before going to the doctor. If your plan does not cover vaccines or you are uninsured, these are some places to turn to.

  • Federally Qualified Health Centers offer vaccines and you pay based on your income.
  • The Vaccine for Children Program is a federally funded program that offers vaccines to children who may not be able to pay. You can locate places that participate in the program.
  • If you are over 65 years, Medicare Part B covers the flu shot, hepatitis B shots, and the pneumococcal shot.
  • Call or visit your local health department’s website to determine if you can get the needed vaccines there.

Resources reviewed June 2013

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