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Vaccinations and booster shots adults need

Are you due for a vaccination or booster shot? Diondra Atoyebi, D.O., a Piedmont family medicine physician, explains which immunizations adults need and when to get them.

Dr. Atoyebi says these are the immunizations most adults need: 

  • Flu shot. You need a flu shot every year, ideally around October, but it’s better late than never. “There are a lot of fears in our community about the flu shot – people think it will give them the flu or that it doesn’t work, but that’s not true,” she says. “The flu virus is very smart and mutates, so the flu shot is reformulated every year. While the flu vaccine isn’t 100 percent effective, if you get the flu, it will be less severe if you’ve gotten the flu shot.”
  • Pneumonia vaccine. The pneumonia vaccine is routinely given to infants, and the initial series is completed by 2 years of age. It is recommended again for adults at age 65, or sooner for those with certain illnesses that suppress the immune system, such as chronic kidney disease or diabetes.
  • Shingles vaccine. The shingles vaccine is recommended to adults 50 and over. Children don’t receive the shingles vaccine; rather, they are given the chickenpox vaccine.
  • Tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (Tdap) booster. Tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (whooping cough) are three serious illnesses that can be prevented with a vaccination. Children receive the Tdap vaccine at age 11 or 12. If you didn’t receive the Tdap vaccine in adolescence, it’s important to get it as soon as possible. If you did, you should get a Tdap booster every 10 years. It is also important for healthcare workers and anyone who has close contact with infants under 12 months to get vaccinated. Pregnant women should also get vaccinated during every pregnancy. You may also need a Tdap booster after a serious burn or cut to prevent tetanus.

Adults may also need the:

  • HPV vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the HPV vaccine for boys and girls ages 11 to 12, but adults who haven’t received it can still get an insurance-covered vaccination until age 26, she says. If you’re older than 26 and have not gotten the vaccine, it can still be effective if you’re in your 30s or 40s. Just note that you may have to pay for it out of pocket.
  • Meningitis vaccine. “The meningitis vaccine is recommended for high school and college students, as well as members of the military and other people who live in close quarters,” she says. “It’s a deadly disease that can be prevented with a vaccine, so if you’re in your late teens or early 20s, ask your physician about it.” 
  • Travel vaccines. Dr. Atoyebi recommends the CDC’s comprehensive website that breaks down which vaccines you need based on the country you are visiting. Some countries have vaccination requirements, while others offer suggestions or recommendations like malaria-prevention drugs. If you have adequate notice, she recommends seeing your primary care provider two to three months before your trip to review any travel vaccines you may need.

How to know when you need a vaccination or booster shot

If you’re unsure if you need a vaccination or booster shot, ask your primary care provider.

“In Georgia, there’s an online immunization registry we reference,” says Dr. Atoyebi. “If your provider or pharmacy uses it, they can see all of the vaccinations you’ve had.”

She notes that some people’s vaccinations have not been added to the registry, especially older patients who received vaccinations before their records were recorded electronically, and people who received vaccinations at private practices or health fairs that didn’t use the registry.

Dr. Atoyebi says you should receive a paper record each time you get a vaccination and recommends keeping it for reference. If you don’t have your records and need proof for school or work, talk to your healthcare professional.

“Your provider can draw a titer, which is a blood test that checks for antibodies to different diseases to ensure you are protected,” she says.

Also, if you are exposed to occupational hazards (in the healthcare field, for example), are immunocompromised or have other risk factors, you should ask your healthcare provider about immunizations. 

Most insurance companies don’t cover unnecessary vaccinations or vaccinations at certain ages, she notes. Your provider can help you determine what is right for you.

Common vaccination myths

Dr. Atoyebi emphasizes that vaccines do not cause autism or the diseases themselves.

“If you’re concerned about getting multiple vaccinations at once, we can consider splitting them up over a few visits,” she says. “However, most are approved to be given together.”

When to ask about vaccinations

“I usually discuss vaccinations with my patients at their annual physical,” says Dr. Atoyebi. “Our electronic medical records make recommendations for patients based on their age or health status, so I’ll mention vaccinations when discussing preventive care.”

Dr. Atoyebi practices at Piedmont Physicians of Monroe, located at 2161 West Spring Street, Suite A, Monroe, GA 30655. Schedule an appointment with Dr. Atoyebi or one of our other primary care providers. Save time, book online.

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