Vaccines are Important for Adults

Author: Dr. Frank Welch, Medical Director, Immunization Program

You may remember trips to the doctors to get your immunizations throughout your childhood, but you may not realize that you need vaccines throughout your adult life as well. Vaccines are still important for your good health and are one of the safest ways to protect it.

One of the greatest technological developments in history, immunizations are so effective at preventing and eradicating disease that many Americans have never seen a single case of mass killers of the past, such as smallpox and polio. However, despite their effectiveness, more than 40,000 American adults die each year from diseases that can be inexpensively and effectively prevented by immunization. Infants, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems are especially vulnerable to vaccine preventable diseases.

Working with your body’s natural defenses, vaccines lower your chances of getting sick and spreading certain diseases. Side effects from immunizations are usually mild and go away on their own, and severe side effects are rare.

Some of the most common adult vaccines are for the flu and tetanus. A flu shot is recommended every year and your Td/Tdap shot should be boosted every 10 years. This shot protects against tetanus, diphtheria, and Whopping Cough. Click here for more information about different adult vaccines.

Despite concerted efforts to promote annual influenza vaccination in older adults, persistent knowledge gaps exist regarding the burden of disease and the risk of flu and related complications, especially for people age 65 and older.  

That said, awareness of the consequences of vaccine-preventable disease influences vaccination behavior. Rates of herpes zoster (Shingles) vaccination increased among people who witnessed friends or family members experience the disease, particularly if severe.

Vaccine protection wanes over time, and there are a number of other risk factors that could heighten your chances of getting sick. Your age, job, lifestyle, travel, and health conditions are all factors that could determine the vaccines you need as an adult. Check with your doctor about your current immunizations during your annual check-up.

In addition to the preventing the flu, immunizations prevent serious diseases, such as, pneumonia, tetanus, pertussis (Whopping Cough), Herpes Zoster (Shingles), Human Papilloma Virus, Hepatitis A and B.

Adults can get vaccines at doctors’ officers, pharmacies, Urgent Care facilities, federally qualified health centers, and parish health units.

Uninsured and underinsured adults are eligible for vaccination at parish health units. Most health insurance plans cover the cost of recommend vaccines. Check with your insurance provider for details and for a list of vaccine providers.

Don’t wait until you know someone who’s ill. Protect your health and the health of those around you by getting the recommended vaccines based on your age and health conditions.

To see a list of vaccines you may need, take the Louisiana Department of Health’s Adolescent and Adult Immunization quiz.

For more information on immunizations, click here.


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