5 Immunizations you might not know you need as an adult
With the recent measles cases in Canada, there is a lot of discussion on immunization of children. But did you know there are vaccines recommended for adults as well? If you are pro-vaccine and believe you are protected (because hey, you got all your shots as a kid, right?), then you're going to want to keep reading. You might not be as protected as you think.
This is a combined vaccine against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis. It is recommended that this vaccine be given between the ages of 14 to 16 years old. If you have never had the vaccine, it's recommended that you receive it once in a lifetime before the age of 64. Pertussis (or whooping cough) is especially dangerous to newborns and infants, causing hospitalization and even death. In Canada, it is recommended that everyone surrounding the newborn be immunized — this is called "cocooning." Once you have had the Tdap vaccine, the Td — or the tetanus and diphtheria vaccine — is recommended every 10 years.
Did you know you might not be protected against measles if you were vaccinated between the years of 1970 and 1996? Prior to 1996, only one vaccine was given. It is estimated that the efficacy of one dose is between 85 per cent and 95 per cent. Therefore, if you haven't had two shots and haven't had measles itself, you should consider getting a booster. Once you've had the second immunization, your protection is lifelong.
This three-step HPV vaccine is now given to females in elementary and high schools across the country (grade depends on province or territory). However, there is a large proportion of people who have not had it but who should. This vaccine protects against four types of HPV: 6, 11, 16 and 18. Types 6 and 11 are the main strains that cause genital warts, and types 16 and 18 are the main strains that cause cervical cancer. Those who missed receiving the vaccine in school should still consider getting it, even if they've already become sexually active. In fact, it is approved for females from the ages of 9 to 45 and for males from the ages of 9 to 26. Males should be vaccinated to diminish spread of HPV as well as for protection for themselves. HPV is associated with many anal, penile as well as head and neck cancers, and is therefore not just a vaccine against genital warts for males. It does not get better than an anti-cancer vaccine!
This vaccine — also known as the pneumonia shot — should be received by everyone over the age of 65 as well as anyone who is deemed "high risk." You may be considered high risk if you have any lung, kidney, heart or liver diseases, diabetes, sickle cell disease, have had long-term steroid use as well as a variety of other conditions. Make sure you speak with your physician about whether you qualify for the shot.
5. Quadrivalent meningococcal vaccine
The rules on who gets this vaccine are a little more clouded. Although there are a few clear-cut cases on who should receive it — people without a spleen, people with certain congenital deficiencies, people with HIV, military workers, lab personnel at high risk of exposure as well as travellers to sub-Sahara Africa — there are others who may be at risk but who don't fit into one of these categories. If you live in close quarters with a large group of people, such as in a university residence, you might want to consider getting this vaccine. Meningitis is a serious, life-threatening disease,and immunization of adults is often overlooked. If you are still at risk five years after the shot, you might need a booster dose, as immunity has been shown to wane over time.
Please keep in mind that the list of vaccines you might want to consider is much longer than just these five. Other vaccines you may qualify for and want to consider are as follows:
- Hep A vaccine
- Hep B vaccine (if never received)
- Shingles vaccine
- Flu vaccine
A variety of other vaccines are available to travelers depending on the region of travel. For more information on vaccinations in adults, please call your local public health agency, or visit their website here. Help protect yourself and your family — be informed.