Vaccines are a vital tool for protecting people of all ages against preventable diseases. We mark World Immunization Week the last week of April, and it’s a good reminder to check your medical records to ensure you’re up to date on your vaccines.
Your primary care team is the best resource for updated information on immunizations.
“That’s why we highly recommend annual wellness screenings,” says Andrea Hruzek-Graber, a family medicine nurse practitioner at ThedaCare Physicians-Menasha. “At that time, we review what vaccines an individual needs, as most adults are unaware that they may be overdue or never received a recommended vaccine. The wellness exam allows for a discussion to help each patient better understand the importance of immunizations and ask questions.”
Primary care providers work to help families protect, promote and maintain their health — and to prevent disease. It’s important to keep vaccines and immunizations top of mind throughout life, Hruzek-Graber says.
Recommended Vaccinations by Age
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and American Academy of Pediatrics detail recommended immunizations by age. They state that vaccines not only offer the best way for parents to protect their children from many potentially harmful diseases, but they’re also useful for adults “at risk for vaccine-preventable disease due to age, job, lifestyle, travel or health conditions.”
The Children’s Schedule recommends several immunizations for children from birth through 6 years old, starting with hepatitis B and rotavirus, and building up to COVID-19 and influenza as well as chickenpox shots.
The Teen Schedule recommends immunizations for children 7 to 18 years old. In addition to COVID-19 and flu vaccines, it includes tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (Tdap), HPV, and meningitis vaccines.]
Through the Vaccines for Children program, children ages 18 years and younger can get vaccines for free or at a lower cost if they meet certain criteria. Learn more.
The Adult Schedule mostly includes updates on some childhood vaccines, as well as vaccines to protect against diseases such as pneumonia and shingles. This schedule also includes an annual flu shot and updates for COVID-19 variants.
The current recommendations from the CDC regarding COVID-19 booster doses state that individuals ages 6 months and older should receive a booster dose after they’ve completed their primary series.
It’s important to have a discussion with your health care provider regarding the timing and specific product you receive for your booster, Hruzek-Graber says.
“We look at criteria including age, type of vaccine you received in your primary series, and whether you are immunocompromised,” she says. “Taking those factors into consideration, the clinician can then help you decide which type of booster you should receive and when.”
It’s still unclear whether COVID-19 vaccines will be recommended annually, like flu shots.
Considerations for Older Adults
Your vaccine schedule might change as you age and develop new health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease or obesity, Hruzek-Graber says. However, many adults stop thinking about vaccinations, even though three top adult diseases are preventable.
- Influenza, a viral infection of the nose, throat and lungs that can be deadly for people over the age of 65 or those with chronic illness or a compromised immune system. All adults should receive an annual flu shot.
- Shingles, a reactivation of the virus that causes chickenpox, can cause a painful, blistering rash. Vaccination is recommended for adults over 50.
- Pneumonia can be life-threatening when fluid fills the lungs’ air sacs. In general, a vaccination is recommended for all adults 65 and older.
“By receiving recommended vaccinations, adults have an increased chance of preventing disease and/or decreasing their severity of symptoms if they would acquire these illnesses,” Hruzek-Graber says. “It’s one of the best ways to stay healthy well into adulthood.”
To help keep little loved ones safe, she recommends adults get their Tdap vaccine every 10 years. It protects against several illnesses including pertussis, also known as whooping cough, which can lead to prolonged coughing and difficulty breathing.
Infants are at highest risk for developing severe whooping cough symptoms that can lead to hospitalization or death, Hruzek-Graber says. New parents or grandparents, especially, should get the pertussis update vaccine.
“Most often infants acquire the infection from parents, family or caregivers,” she says. “Adults who receive the Tdap vaccine provide protection to our most vulnerable population.”