The recent surge of vaccine-preventable diseases is a comeback story that deserves no cheers. Measles, considered officially eliminated from the United States back in 2000, has reappeared, with outbreaks in 20 states in 2014.
These headlines may have you running to double-check that your kids' vaccinations are up-to-date, but don't forget your own. "People need to update their vaccinations when they're adults, too," says Carolyn Bridges, MD, associate director for adult immunizations at the CDC. In fact, a recent study showed grown-ups often miss important shots, partly because docs forget to review their vax status. The result: Adults make up more than 95 percent of the 30,000 Americans who die of vaccine-preventable diseases each year. We went to the experts to nail down the shots every healthy woman should get.
How Often? Once a year, even if you're pregnant. The newer, quadrivalent vaccine offers immunity against the four strains of the virus deemed most likely to be circulating during flu season. It's also available as a nasal spray. A trivalent version, which contains the top three likely virus strains, is also an effective option. You can get it as an intradermal injection (a shallow shot, just into the skin) if the traditional long needles freak you out, and as an egg-free injection if you're allergic.
Why Now? It slashes your risk of the flu, which can knock out even the healthiest people for up to two weeks of fever, chills, aches and pains. For some, the flu may lead to dangerous complications like pneumonia; babies and seniors are especially at risk. Still not convinced? Consider this: From 2005 to 2011, flu vaccines prevented close to 14 million illnesses and nearly 113,000 hospitalizations.
How Often? All adults should get a tetanus-diphtheria booster every 10 years, plus a onetime dose of Tdap, which includes protection against pertussis (whooping cough). Though most of us got the pertussis vaccine as kids, immunity can wear off. The CDC now also advises pregnant women to get Tdap during the third trimester.
Why Now? About 48,000 cases of whooping cough were reported in 2012. It's critical to be immunized against pertussis because it's highly contagious, and even if you don't know you have the disease (symptoms can be similar to the common cold), you could pass it on to newborns, for whom it can be fatal. Tetanus and diphtheria, though rare in the U.S. today, are serious bacterial infections that can be life-threatening, even to adults.
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How Often? Adults born after 1957 who didn't get vaccinated as children need an MMR shot now. If you're unsure about your status, the CDC recommends a booster as a precaution in light of the recent outbreaks—it's cheaper than a blood test to check for antibodies, and there's no harm in getting it again. MMR is also imperative for anyone traveling internationally.
Why Now? U.S. measles cases reached a 20-year high in June 2014, with the tally more than doubling since March. Unvaccinated Americans and visitors from parts of Europe, Africa and Asia are linked to recent outbreaks: Travelers are increasingly bringing the virus back from places where infections are rampant, and the illness is spreading among those without immunity here in the States.
Hepatitis B: If you're not monogamous or you're diabetic, be sure to ask your doc about getting this vaccine.
Zoster (shingles) Get it if you're 50 or over and have weak immunity, making you more at risk for shingles, a rash that's a reactivation of chicken pox. (But insurance doesn't cover the vaccine until age 60.)