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Vaccines aren't just for kids - adults need them, too

August 28, 2015

Every year, thousands of adults in the United States suffer serious health problems, are hospitalized, or even die from diseases that could have been prevented by vaccination.

To celebrate the importance of immunizations throughout life – and to help remind adults that they need vaccines, too – Baystate Medical Center is recognizing August as National Immunization Awareness Month. This is the perfect opportunity to make sure adults are protected against diseases like flu, whooping cough, tetanus, shingles and pneumococcal disease (important cause of bacterial pneumonia).

“There is a misconception among many adults that vaccines are just for children,” said Dr. Daniel Skiest, chief, Infectious Disease Division at Baystate Medical Center. “There has been much in the news lately about children getting their recommended vaccines in time for school. The truth is, it’s not just kids, you never outgrow the need for immunizations,” he added.

Dr. Skiest noted it goes without saying that all adults should be immunized against the flu.

The vast majority of adults can safely receive vaccines. However, occasionally patients may be allergic to a vaccine component and live vaccines should not be given to people with weakened immune systems or to pregnant women,” said Dr. Skiest.

“That is why it is so important for you to talk with your healthcare provider to determine which vaccines are right for you,” he said.

All adults should also get a one-time dose of Tdap vaccine to protect against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (whooping cough) if they did not receive this vaccine as an adolescent. After receiving Tdap, all adults should receive a Td booster every 10 years to protect against tetanus, which can be caused by a harmful bacteria in the environment that can enter through broken skin.

Women are recommended to get a Tdap vaccine during the third trimester of every pregnancy to protect themselves and their newborn babies against whooping cough. They should get the Tdap during pregnancy even if they have had a prior Tdap shot.

Other vaccines you need as an adult are determined by factors such as age, lifestyle, job, health condition, and vaccines you have received in the past. Vaccines that may be recommended for you are vaccines that protect against shingles, pneumococcal disease, human papillomavirus (which can cause certain cancers), meningococcal disease, hepatitis A and B, chickenpox (varicella), and measles, mumps and rubella (MMR).

If you are traveling abroad, you may need additional vaccines. Check the CDC travel website at www.cdc.gov/travel for more information on what you should do to prepare for travel based on where you are traveling. Baystate also offers services for those traveling abroad. For more information, call 413-794-7015.

And, don’t be a scaredy-cat.

Side effects from vaccines are usually mild and temporary, such as soreness where the shot was given or a slight fever that goes away within a few days. Some people may have allergic reactions to certain vaccines, but serious and long-term effects are rare.

The benefits of vaccination greatly outweigh the risks, noted Dr. Skiest.

“All adults should talk to their health care providers about which vaccines are right for them,” reminded Dr. Skiest.

Visit www.cdc.gov/vaccines/adults for more information and find a link to an adult vaccine quiz to see which vaccines are recommended for you.

For more information on Baystate Medical Center, visit baystatehealth.org/bmc.