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What Immunizations are Recommended for Adults?

Tetanus, diphtheria vaccine (Td)

The Td vaccine protects from the following:

Tetanus (lockjaw): Tetanus is a disease of the nervous system caused by a bacterium that enters the body through a break in the skin. Early symptoms are lockjaw (“locking” of the jaw so the sick person cannot open his or her mouth or swallow), stiffness in the neck and abdomen, and difficulty swallowing. It can also cause fever, elevated blood pressure, and severe muscle spasms. Death occurs in one third of cases, with increased risk for people over 50. The vaccine prevents infection from tetanus and is recommended for everyone.

Diphtheria: Diphtheria is a bacterial respiratory infection. Breathing droplets coughed or sneezed by an infected person spreads the virus. Early symptoms are sore throat, low fever, and chills. If left untreated, it can lead to heart failure, paralysis, and death.

The tetanus shot (Td) vaccine, which contains the vaccine against tetanus and diphtheria, is recommended for everyone who has not had a booster shot in 10 years or more, or who has not had the initial 3 shot series in his or her lifetime. Three doses of the Td vaccine are recommended for adults. The first two doses should be given 4-8 weeks apart and the third dose 6-12 months after the second dose.


Influenza vaccine or the "flu shot"

The influenza vaccine helps protect against influenza. Influenza, also known as the flu, is an infection of the respiratory system caused by the influenza virus. This highly contagious virus is spread when germs pass from an infected person to the nose or throat of others. Generally, it takes 1 to 3 days to get sick after being exposed. Most people develop mild symptoms that include fever, chills, cough, sore throat, runny nose, headache, and body aches. In severe cases it can lead to pneumonia.

You should be immunized if:

  • You are 50 years or older, no matter how healthy you are. 
  • You are living in a long-term care facility for the chronically ill, no matter what your age is.
  • You have serious health problems such as: diabetes; heart, kidney, or lung disease; anemia; or other blood disorders
  • Your immune system is weakened because of: HIV/AIDS, long term treatment steroids, cancer treatment, or bone marrow or organ transplants.
  • You are a health care worker.
  • You will be more than three months pregnant during the flu season.

Some persons with particular health risks may need a one-time revaccination dose 5 years later.


Measles, Mumps, and Rubella (MMR)

The MMR vaccine can prevent measles, mumps and rubella.

Measles: This is a respiratory disease that causes rash, high fever, cough, runny nose, and red watery eyes that last about 1-2 weeks. It can lead to diarrhea, ear infections, pneumonia, encephalitis (swelling of the brain), seizures, and death.

Mumps: This disease of the lymph nodes causes fever, headache, muscle ache, and swollen glands under the jaw. It can lead to meningitis, inflammation of the testicles or ovaries, inflammation of the pancreas, and deafness (usually permanent).

Rubella: This respiratory disease is also called German measles. It causes rash and fever for 2 to 3 days. If infection occurs during pregnancy, women can lose their babies. Babies may be born with birth defects such as deafness, blindness, heart defects, brain damage, mental retardation, and liver and spleen damage.

You can prevent these diseases with the MMR vaccine. One dose is recommended for those born in 1957 or later if that person has not been previously immunized. Ask your doctor for more information.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a viral infection of the liver caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV). The virus lives in body fluids and is transmitted through sexual contact or blood exposure with an infected person. Hepatitis B is spread from person to person by: using contaminated needles (when using injection drugs, ear piercing, tattooing, or acupuncture), sharing needles, razors, clippers or toothbrushes with an infected person, having unprotected sex with an infected person, or coming into contact with the blood of an infected person through a cut or scrape in the skin. Symptoms of hepatitis B are loss of appetite, tiredness, pain in muscles, joints, or stomach, diarrhea or vomiting, and yellow skin or eyes. Infection can result in mild illness; long-term chronic illness; liver damage such as cirrhosis; liver cancer; and death due to liver failure. If a woman has HBV, she can pass it to her baby during delivery. The younger a person is infected, the greater the likelihood of staying infected and having life-long liver problems, such as scarring of the liver and liver cancer. Some people who are infected never feel sick. For that reason, is very important to be vaccinated against hepatitis B.

You should be immunized if:

  • You have had sex with more than one person in the last 6 months.
  • You have had a sexually transmitted disease.
  • You are a man who has sex with other men.
  • You are a household contact or sex partner of a person with long-term hepatitis B.
  • You have a job that involves contact with human blood.
  • You are on the staff of, or a client in, an institution for the developmentally disabled.
  • You are the recipient of blood products.
  • You are a dialysis patient.
  • You live or travel for more than 6 months a year in countries where hepatitis B is common.
  • You are a prisoner in a long-term correctional facility.
  • You use needles to inject drugs.

Three doses of the hepatitis B vaccine are recommended for adults. The first two doses should be given no less than 4 weeks apart, and the third dose 4-6 months after the second dose.


Chickenpox (Varicella)

This is a viral disease that usually causes a blister-like skin rash on the face, scalp or trunk. Complications may progress to bacterial infection of the skin, inflammation of the brain (encephalitis), or pneumonia. Symptoms are more severe in adults than children.

Chickenpox is highly contagious and is spread from person to person by direct contact with chickenpox skin lesions; by breathing the viruses coughed or sneezed by an infected person; and through direct contact with a person who has shingles (another disease caused by a virus of the same family of the chickenpox).

Two doses of Varicella vaccine 4-8 weeks in between are recommended for those who have never had chickenpox. Ask your doctor for more information.


Hepatitis A

The Hepatitis A vaccine can prevent a serious liver disease caused by the hepatitis A virus (HAV). The virus is found in the stool of persons with hepatitis A. Infection occurs through oral contact with items that have been contaminated with the feces of an infected person. Symptoms include mild “flu like” illness, yellow skin or eyes, tiredness, sever stomach pains or diarrhea, loss of appetite, or nausea. Some cases may progress to severe hepatitis or in rare cases, death. The disease is more frequent in adults than in children.

You should be immunized if:

You have chronic liver disease.

You travel to countries with high prevalence of hepatitis A.

You are a man who has sex with other men.

You use needles to inject drugs.

You are a recipient of blood clotting products.

Persons 2 years and older need 2 doses of the vaccine, given 6-12 months apart.


Last Updated 7/15/2015