Adults need vaccinations, too

September 17, 2012 By Camilo N. Echanique, M.D., FACP

Many people believe vaccinations are relegated to childhood, but the viruses and bacteria that cause severe illness in youth can also infect adults. In fact, certain common infectious diseases, like chickenpox or flu, are more aggressive in adulthood. Untreated, some of these infections can be life-threatening.

On average, more than 50,000 U.S. adults annually die from vaccine-preventable diseases or their complications, particularly people age 60 and older. While healthy adults' immune systems are better developed than those of young children, certain communicable and infectious diseases cause significant problems in adults. Experts recommend adults receive these vaccines and boosters:

• Tetanus and diphtheria (Td) immunizations at 10-year intervals throughout life. For one of those boosters, adults under age 65 should substitute a tetanus, diphtheria, acellular pertussis (Tdap) vaccination. Pertussis vaccine helps protect against whooping cough.
• Adults born after 1956 who are not immune to measles, mumps, or rubella should be immunized. You're immune if you've had these conditions or were previously vaccinated.
• Women age 26 or younger should be immunized against human papillomavirus (HPV), which causes about 70 percent of all cervical cancer cases in the U.S.
• All adults 65 or older, as well as people with diabetes or chronic heart, lung, liver or kidney disorders need protection against pneumococcal disease, including pneumonia and other illnesses.
• Seasonal influenza vaccination is recommended for all adults 50 or older; women who will be pregnant during influenza season; residents of long-term care facilities; and people with certain chronic medical conditions. Others who should get seasonal flu shots include healthcare workers, and those who live with or care for people at higher risk for influenza complications (including infants under age 6 months).
• With recent outbreaks of whooping cough (pertussis), parents with young children or caretakers of young children should be vaccinated, as should adults 65 and older.

All of the recommended vaccinations and boosters can be administered at a routine physical by your primary care physician. Vaccinations take just minutes, but are extremely effective at preventing illness – and preventing the spread of infections to a wider population. Talk to your doctor about which vaccinations and boosters you need. For more information on vaccination, an easy-to-read adult immunization schedule and other helpful tools, visit the immunization section of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website,

Camilo Echanique, M.D., FACP, is an internal medicine specialist at The Hospital of Central Connecticut's Doctors of Central Connecticut practice. For referrals to HCC physicians, please contact our free Need-A-Physician referral service by phone at 800.321.6244.