Last year, when the swine flu pandemic was at its peak, everyone was talking about the H1N1 shot: Did you get it? Where? How long did you have to wait on line? But now that the buzz about the swine flu has died down, many of us have gone back to thinking that kids are the only ones who need vaccinations. But women also need to receive vaccines in order to be protected against preventable diseases.
Maybe it’s just the fear of that needle that’s keeping us away. But according to a recent adult immunization report released by the Trust for America’s Health, the Infectious Diseases Society of America, and The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, millions of American adults go without necessary vaccinations each year, which leads to almost 50,000 preventable deaths and thousands of illnesses.
“We hear a lot about the flu, but not so much about the other vaccines adults need,” says Jeff Dimond, a spokesperson for the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta. “It’s important to talk to your doctor about this important topic.”
Here are some common vaccines you may need:
Get this booster every 10 years to maintain your immunity to tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough. This is especially important for people who spend a lot of time around infants, as babies are very susceptible to whooping cough.
If you’re between 19 and 50, you may need one or two boosters to protect you from measles, mumps and rubella. This booster is recommended for two reasons: First, childhood vaccines can wear off over time. Second, the strains of these diseases may alter slightly over the years or be different overseas, so you need protection against the current and foreign viruses if you’re traveling. Measles, mumps and rubella can have serious complications in adults and can cause birth defects if contracted during pregnancy.
This shot protects against the human papillomavirus, the virus linked to cervical cancer. Women 11 to 26 should get the vaccine, which is given in three doses over six months.
Didn’t have chickenpox as a kid? You may need the varicella vaccine to keep from getting it now. Talk to your doctor about it.
The CDC recently expanded its recommendation to urge everyone over the age of 6 months to get a flu shot every year. The good news is that this year’s seasonal flu vaccine also protects against H1N1 — so you need only one shot instead of two. “The flu affects all age groups, and that’s why everyone needs the flu vaccine,” says Dimond.
These are just recommendations, so be sure to talk to your doctor if you have any questions or want more information about any of these vaccines. Depending on your age and other factors — including pregnancy status, travel plans, lifestyle and health issues — your doctor may recommend others. Among them are hepatitis A and/or B, pneumococcal, meningococcal and zoster vaccines.
But what if you don’t even know what immunizations you’ve had so far? Tracking down that information can be difficult, especially if you’ve changed doctors and moved around. “You’ll have to look back on your records and backtrack through all your doctors to find that information,” Dimond says. You can download an adult immunization checklist to start you off. Use the list to help you keep track in the future.