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Just because you’re an adult, doesn’t mean you’re immune from certain illnesses. Immunizations are important in staying healthy as an adult. Adults aren’t always good about getting immunized. Many adults don’t know they need adult immunizations.
The following immunizations are recommended for adults:
Flu: All adults should receive a flu shot once a year. It can reduce the risk of flu by up to 50%. How well it works depends on the type of flu that is spreading. It takes about two weeks after vaccination to protect against flu. The best time to get vaccinated is early fall. This is before flu season begins. While getting the immunization earlier is better, getting it later is still effective. Getting the immunization even in January or February can still provide some protection.
MMR: This immunization protects against measles, mumps, and rubella. Adults born in 1970 or later who have not had measles disease or received two doses of measles vaccine should get this vaccination.
Td: This immunization protects against tetanus and diphtheria. These are bacterial infections. You need a 3-shot/injection series of the tetanus/diphtheria (Td) immunization if you did not get the 3 shots as a child. One of the 3 doses should include protection against pertussis (Whooping Cough). This is called Tdap (see below). If you got the vaccination as a child, you need a booster dose every 10 years. If you haven’t had one for a while, get one if you’ve experienced a severe or dirty wound or burn. Everyone needs a Td booster dose every 10 years.
Tdap: This immunization protects against tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis. These bacterial infections can be prevented with an immunization. It’s typically given as part of the school age immunization program (grade 7 in Nova Scotia, grade 9 in PEI). If you did not receive it as a child, you need it as an adult. If you are pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant, talk with your healthcare provider to see if you need this immunization.
Pneumococcal Conjugate: This immunization protects against pneumonia. Pneumonia is a serious bacterial infection. It spreads from close, person-to-person contact. The infection is common in adults. Beyond children, adults 65 and older are urged to get the immunization. It also may be recommended by your healthcare provider that you get this immunization if you have a chronic condition, such as diabetes or COPD.
OTHER IMMUNIZATIONS THAT MAY BE RECOMMENDED:
Herpes Zoster: This immunization protects against the shingles virus. The shingles virus causes a painful rash. It appears as blisters that develop on one side of the body. It often appears on the face or torso. It can result in long-term pain even after the rash goes away. Older people are most at risk for the virus. The shingles immunization is recommended for adults 60 years of age and older. This immunization may not be publically funded in your province, but may be covered with private insurance plans.
Meningococcal: This immunization protects against meningococcal disease. This bacterial infection affects the lining of the brain, spinal cord, and bloodstream. It is spread through coughs, kissing, and living in close quarters. The shot is recommended for people who have a weakened immune system or who do not have a spleen. Your healthcare provider will tell you if you should receive this immunization.
Hepatitis A: This is a highly contagious liver infection. It is spread through contact with feces (poop). Adults who are at risk for the infection should get the immunization. Risk factors include living or traveling to areas of the world where the infection is common, exposure to childcare centers, and living with someone who has Hep A.
Hepatitis B: This is an infection of the liver. It is spread through contact with blood and bodily fluids. Adults exposed to certain risk factors should get the immunization. Risk factors include jobs that expose you to others with the infection, a diagnosis of diabetes, end-stage kidney disease, chronic liver disease, or drug/sexual behavior that increases risk.
Varicella: This immunization protects against chickenpox. Adults who have not had chickenpox or the immunization should get it.
Not everyone is the same. You may need more or fewer immunizations depending on your medical history and risks. Talk to your healthcare provider about the right immunizations for you.
THINGS TO CONSIDER
When deciding to get an immunization as an adult, there are certain things to consider. This includes:
- If you are pregnant, check with your healthcare provider before getting any immunization.
- If you are unsure which immunizations you have already had, contact your healthcare provider or local Public Health office.
- Most immunizations have few side effects. The negative effects of the diseases itself is far worse than the immunization.
- You may experience slight pain and redness near the immunization injection site.
QUESTONS TO ASK YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER
- How do I find out which immunizations I’ve already had?
- If I had chickenpox as a child, do I still need the immunization?
- If I had shingles, do I still need the immunization?
- Is it too late to get an immunization after I’ve been exposed to a disease or infection?
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Government of Prince Edward Island Website:
Nova Scotia Department of Health Website:
Health Canada Website: