Now that covid-19 vaccines are on everyone’s mind, there’s no better time to protect yourself from infectious disease of all kinds. Flu, pneumonia, shingles and measles; in annual shots or 10-year boosters — there’s an abundance of immunizations available to keep you healthy throughout adulthood.
“Due to the current worldwide pandemic, the most important vaccine to get is the COVID-19 vaccine,” says Shirin Alonzo, MD, an internist and pediatrician with expertise in global health at Scripps Coastal Medical Center San Marcos. “But there are a lot of other vaccines adults need based on age and any chronic conditions. It’s important to stay up to date with current guidelines from the CDC.”
For example, Dr. Alonzo says, the pneumonia vaccine is recommended starting at age 65 for everyone and may be needed sooner based on chronic conditions. At age 50, adults are advised to start getting the shingles vaccine. And all adults are recommended to receive their Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis) booster every 10 years.
Additionally, immunizations are required for young adults entering or returning to college. A number of vaccines are also either required or recommended for people traveling to countries where infectious diseases that aren't common in the United States are prevalent.
“Scripps Health has travel vaccine clinics that offer protection against diseases like typhoid fever and hepatitis A that can be contracted when traveling abroad,” Dr. Alonzo says. “It’s always good to review guidelines before traveling out of the country and make sure you’re protected. The whole point of vaccines is to prevent contracting and carrying an infectious disease in you.”
For anyone concerned about any potential vaccine side effects, Dr. Alonzo informs that “in almost all cases, the benefits of the vaccine outweigh the risk.”
Potential vaccine side effects vary from person to person and vaccine to vaccine, but the most common side effect is arm pain for a few days after getting vaccinated.
“If you’re concerned about potential side effects or allergies, it’s important to speak to your doctor,” she adds. “There are a lot of misconceptions about vaccines, but the truth is that staying up to date with vaccinations is critical for adults, just as it is for children. As we get older, we are still at risk of catching certain infectious diseases that can lead to hospitalization, or worse.”
Finally, Dr. Alonzo advises patients to be their own vaccination advocates. While your primary care physician may remind you that it’s time for your routine vaccines, being accountable for your own vaccine records can only help.
“I always recommend that patients be their own health advocate no matter what,” she says.
Because people can get vaccines outside of their doctor’s office — at local pharmacies or vaccine clinics, for example — records can fall through the cracks. “Keep your own vaccination card or record in a file folder that you can review with your doctor on a regular basis.”