Staying protected: vaccinations aren't just for children

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Robyn Odzark

No one likes getting shots. But those dreaded vaccinations you received as a kid are just as important now that you're an adult.

Protection from childhood vaccines can wear off over time, requiring booster injections to stay protected. And as you age, you might be at risk for other diseases that can be debilitating - or even fatal.

But getting immunized doesn't just protect our own health. It also protects those around us, assuring we don't spread disease to any high-risk individuals. An illness that might be just annoying to a healthy adult could be life-threatening to someone else.

August is National Immunization Awareness Month, serving to remind us to get those much-needed vaccinations.

What vaccines do you need? As an adult, it is recommended that you get vaccinated for protection against:

• Influenza: Get your flu shot every year to reduce your chances of being infected with the three or four influenza viruses expected during the season.

• Tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis: After your first dose of Tdap (a combination of the three vaccines), you need a booster for tetanus and diphtheria every 10 years. The Tdap also protects against pertussis, or whooping cough, which can be serious or even life-threatening for the elderly, babies, and anyone immunocompromised or with chronic lung conditions.

• Shingles: Almost one out of every three Americans will develop shingles in their lifetime. The herpes zoster vaccine is recommended for adults age 50 and older. Shindrix, a new two-dose vaccine, came out in late 2017 and has shown to be much more effective than the previous Zostivax vaccine. It is suggested that you get the Shindrix vaccine even if you already been vaccinated with Zostivax.

• Pneumococcal: There are two vaccines (Pneumococcal 23 and Prevnar 13) that are recommended for adults age 65 and older to prevent some cases of pneumonia, bacterial meningitis and sepsis. Your doctor might recommend you get one or both of the vaccines prior to age 65 if you are at higher risk for serious complications from a pneumonia infection.

• Measles, mumps and rubella: You may need the MMR vaccine if you were born in the U.S. after 1957 and were not vaccinated.

• Human Papillomavirus (HPV): This vaccine (called Gardasil) protects against the HPV virus, which has been shown to cause cervical, and other various types of genital cancers. The great thing about Gardasil is that it's the only vaccine out known to prevent certain forms of cancer.

• Other: Depending on your age, lifestyle, job and health conditions, you might need other vaccinations, including meningococcal disease, hepatitis A, and chickenpox. International travelers might require additional vaccines to protect themselves from diseases that are rare in the United States.

Bottom line is, vaccines prevent diseases that can be dangerous or even deadly to us and the people around us. Be sure to stay fully protected.

Dr. Robyn Odzark, a board-certified family medicine physician, recently joined Beaufort Memorial Bluffton Primary Care in Westbury Park, Bluffton.

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