What you might not know about adult vaccinations

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We may think of them as childhood preventive measures, but there are a number of vaccinations recommended for adults. Most of us are aware that we should get a new flu shot every fall, but adults can also get vaccinated for conditions like shingles, hepatitis A and B, pneumonia and meningitis. Plus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also suggests a tetanus and diphtheria booster vaccination (Td) every 10 years.1

Why you may need new vaccinations 

There are a number of reasons you or your loved ones may need additional vaccinations now, according to Vaccines.gov:2

  • Some diseases, like shingles, are most common among adults
  • Viruses may change over time, so new vaccinations are needed (for example, the flu)
  • Things like your job, health and international travel might require additional vaccinations
  • Sometimes new, improved vaccinations become available 
  • Some childhood vaccinations may not be as effective as you get older 

How to know which vaccinations you may need and when 

This is where it can get a little complicated. 

As always, your first and best step is to talk to your doctor. If you can get a copy of your childhood vaccination record, that may help your doctor figure out what vaccinations you may need as an adult. There aren’t always clear guidelines for adult vaccinations. According to the CDC:1

  • Some vaccinations are recommended after you turn 60 (for shingles), or 65 (for a pertussis booster and for pneumococcal, which can cause pneumonia and meningitis).
  • Vaccinations for hepatitis A and B are recommended based on lifestyle, travel habits and health factors.
  • Human papillomaviruses (HPV) vaccination is usually recommended for people under 26, depending on the person’s sex and sexual activity.
  • Whether you should get a chickenpox (varicella) vaccination depends if you were born between 1980 and 1995 (when a new vaccine was developed) and you’ve never had or been exposed to chickenpox.
  • Vaccination recommendations may change if you’re pregnant or planning to become pregnant.

Based on your age, sex, vaccination history and current health, your doctor can help you navigate the sometimes confusing recommendations. 

Who needs a new measles shot? 

Recent measles outbreaks in the U.S. have some people concerned. Although the majority of new cases occur in people who never had a measles vaccination,3 many adults are worried if and when they were vaccinated against measles as children, or if they may now need a booster immunization. 

If you received the standard 2-dose MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccinations after 1968, you should have life-long immunity against measles. If you were born before 1957, doctors believe that childhood exposure to measles likely gave you immunity. However, because the measles vaccine used from 1963 to 1967 is considered less effective and not as long lasting, adults born between 1957 and 1968 should check with their doctor to see if they need a new dose of the MMR vaccine today.3

People who travel outside the U.S., are college students, or have jobs as teachers or healthcare workers should talk to their doctors to make sure they’ve had the MMR vaccination.1

Flu vaccine

We may not always think of a flu shot as a vaccination, but it is, and one you should get every year. Because the flu strain changes each year, the shot you got last year may not protect you this year. Flu season generally starts in October, then peaks in December and February, and ends around May.4

Talk to your doctor about the vaccinations you need. Sign in to MyHumana and go to “Coverage and Benefits” to see which vaccinations are covered under your plan. 

Sources:

  1. “Vaccines: Know what you need,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, last accessed July 8, 2019, https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/hcp/adults/downloads/fs-vaccines-need.pdf
  2. “Vaccines for Adults,” Vaccines.gov, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, last accessed July 8, 2019, https://www.vaccines.gov/who_and_when/adults
  3. Mara Gordon, “It’s Not Just Measles. What You Should Know About Vaccines For Adults,” NPR, last accessed July 8, 2019, https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2019/05/15/723282022/its-not-just-measles-what-you-should-know-about-vaccines-for-adults
  4. “The Flu Season,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, last accessed September 4, 2018, https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/season/flu-season.htm

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