While vaccines were once considered to be for children only, this is no longer the case. Adults in your child's life should be encouraged to be up-to-date on their vaccines as well. This protects them, you and your children. It is also important to realize that there are certain groups of adults for whom vaccines may require special consideration.
Which vaccines do I need?
When should I get the vaccines?
Why doesn't my doctor suggest that I get vaccines?
Will my insurance cover these vaccines?
Where can I get these vaccines?
Can you tell me more about the shingles vaccine?
Where can I get more information about these vaccines?
How can I find old immunization records?
Other vaccines that may be recommended depending on your risk factors (e.g., age, lifestyle, or medical conditions) include hepatitis B, hepatitis A, and the meningococcal polysaccharide vaccine. Additionally, there are recommendations for pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccines in the adult age groups not mentioned above.
You can learn more by reviewing the schedule developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The best time to get the vaccines is when you are getting your regular physical exam. However, you can talk to your doctor about receiving them if you are in for a mild illness or condition, at a follow-up appointment, or by scheduling a special visit.
The influenza vaccine is the only vaccine that needs to be given at a particular time of the year. While this vaccine can be given anytime between October and April, you should plan to get the vaccine as early in the fall as possible.
Many doctors are very good at asking about your vaccination status during a physical or routine check-up. However, most adults only go to the doctor when they are having a specific health issue, so the doctor is often focused on figuring out what is going on with you at that time and may fail to mention vaccines. This is one reason that it is so important for you and your doctor to work together to make sure that you have received the vaccines that you require.
All insurance companies will not pay for all vaccines, so it is important to check with your insurer as to their specific policies. That said, many insurers will cover vaccines that are recommended because it is in their best interest financially. It is much more economical for them to pay for a vaccine than to pay for your treatment or hospitalization from the disease.
If your insurance company does not cover a vaccine that you require, there are some other options. First, check with your employee health or human resources department. Many employers will cover vaccines if you are at risk for the disease through your occupational activities. For vaccines like influenza, it is often more economical for them to offer the vaccine than to have you miss work with the illness. Second, check with your local health department. Even if they can't direct you to a resource for a free vaccine, they may be able to tell you where you can get the vaccine at a reduced rate.
The best place to get vaccines is at your doctor's office because it will be part of your medical record. However, you can always notify your doctor's office if you receive a vaccine somewhere else. It is also useful for you to maintain your own immunization record.
Other places that offer vaccines include public health departments and clinics. In many cases, pharmacists also offer vaccines. Your doctor and local health department will be the best resources about where to get the vaccine.
In October 2006, a federal advisory committee to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended a vaccine to help protect people from getting shingles. The vaccine is recommended for adults 60 years of age and older.
Shingles is caused by a reactivation or reawakening of a chickenpox infection that could have occurred years or decades before. When the old chickenpox infection reawakens, it travels down the nerves and causes a rash and severe pain. The pain often lasts longer than three months and is one of the most debilitating pains in medicine. Sometimes shingles affects the eye and causes blindness. The new shingles vaccine was shown to be very effective at preventing shingles and, more importantly, the intense pain caused by shingles. The vaccine contains 14 times more vaccine virus than the chickenpox vaccine now given to young children. Shingles affects about one million Americans every year.
There are many useful resources, including:
Q. I need proof of immunizations for a job, but I do not have the dates that I was immunized. Is there a chart available based on the year you were born?
A. This type of chart is not available. Even if a particular vaccine was available when you were born, it does not mean that you received it. Many factors can contribute to whether or not you got a certain vaccine including, among others, whether it was required, whether your doctor had it, and whether your parents took you to get it.
To know which vaccines you received, you should try to locate your immunization record. The Immunization Action Coalition (IAC) has some tips for doing so on their website.
If you are unsuccessful in locating your records, you may be able to get a blood test to help determine the diseases to which you are immune. In some cases, your healthcare provider may simply recommend getting the vaccines since an extra dose would not be detrimental.
Updated: January 2013
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