In the Know: August is National Immunization Awareness Month

by Karen Morrisette


With all the media attention on the COVID-19 vaccines, attention to other important adult immunizations had fallen to the wayside. There are vaccines that are recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on a routine basis, along with others that may be recommended for certain groups.

Tetanus/Diphtheria/Pertussis: This is recommended every ten years for all adults who have received the initial series as children. Its primary function is to prevent tetanus after open wounds. If you have a particularly deep or serious wound, it may be recommended that you have a booster if your last vaccination was more than 5 years ago. This may also be recommended in pregnancy or for family members of infants who are at high risk of contracting the childhood diseases diphtheria and pertussis, otherwise known as whooping cough. For those few who are allergic to the Pertussis component, a Tetanus/Diphtheria vaccine is available.

Shingrix: This vaccine, which helps protect against shingles, or Herpes Zoster, is recommended for those aged 50 and older. It consists of a series of two vaccinations, 2-6 months apart. Those who are immunocompromised may consider getting this vaccine as early as age 19.

Influenza: This is recommended annually for adults but is especially important for those with chronic medical conditions and those who are immunocompromised.

Pneumococcal: This is recommended for all adults aged 65 and older who have not previously received a pneumococcal conjugate vaccine. There are different versions of this vaccine. Those who receive PCV 23 require only one dose. Those who may have received PCV 15 as their first dose, should be given a booster with PCV 23 at least 1 year after the initial dose. Those 19 and older who have immunocompromising conditions or medications may qualify for the PCV 23 vaccine earlier. These vaccines protect against one particularly common and virulent bacteria that may cause pneumonia, however, it does not protect against all causes of pneumonia.

Other adult vaccinations may be required for travel to certain destinations or in circumstances where a person is exposed to an infectious agent or may potentially expose an immunocompromised individual due to frequent proximity. Those who are immunocompromised or who never received the full schedule of childhood immunizations may also be encouraged to have additional vaccines.

People with certain health conditions should not receive some vaccines, especially those which contain an active form of the organism it is meant to prevent. Talk to your primary care provider or medical specialist about what vaccines may be needed in your particular case. Your local pharmacist may also be able to assist you. Some vaccines are available from pharmacies, but others may require a visit to your provider or a special immunization clinic.