Health & Fitness

This is one of the best ways to avoid illness, no matter how old you are

Vaccination is one of the most convenient and safest preventive care measures available.
Vaccination is one of the most convenient and safest preventive care measures available. Getty Images

You never outgrow the need for vaccines, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the nation’s public health agency.

The flu vaccine is the one that most readily comes to mind, but there are others you likely need. The specific vaccinations you need as an adult are determined by factors such as your age, lifestyle, health and risk conditions, type and locations of travel and previous immunizations.

Adults need to keep their vaccinations up to date, because immunity from childhood vaccines can wear off over time. You are also at risk for different diseases as an adult. Vaccination is one of the most convenient and safest preventive care measures available.

To better help readers sort out what vaccinations they might need, we turned to the Whatcom County Health Department:

Question: Is there a certain vaccine every adult needs?

Answer: Yes. The best way to prevent seasonal flu is to get vaccinated every year.

Q: Any other adult must-have vaccine?

A: Yes, vaccines are available that can help prevent tetanus, an infection caused by Clostridium tetani bacteria. Four kinds of vaccines used today protect against tetanus, all of which also protect against other diseases:

▪ Diphtheria and tetanus (DT) vaccines.

▪ Diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (DTaP) vaccines.

▪ Tetanus and diphtheria (Td) vaccines.

▪ Tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (Tdap) vaccines.

Adults should get one dose of the tetanus and diphtheria (Td) vaccine every 10 years. For adults who did not get Tdap as a preteen or teen, they should get one dose of Tdap in place of a Td dose to boost protection against whooping cough. However, adults who need protection against whooping cough can get Tdap at any time, regardless of when they last got Td.

Q: Any other immunization shots adults should have or consider?

A: Almost one out of every three people in the United States will develop shingles in their lifetime. Your risk of shingles increases as you grow older. Additionally, more than 60 percent of seasonal flu-related hospitalizations occur in people 65 years and older.

As we get older, our immune systems tend to weaken over time, putting us at higher risk for certain diseases. This is why, in addition to seasonal flu vaccine and Td or Tdap vaccine, you should also get:

▪ Shingles vaccine, which protects against shingles and the complications from the disease (recommended for healthy adults 50 years and older).

▪ Pneumococcal vaccines, which protect against pneumococcal disease, including infections in the lungs and bloodstream (recommended for all adults over 65 years old, and for adults younger than 65 years who have certain chronic health conditions)

Talk with your doctor or other healthcare professional to find out which vaccines are recommended for you at your next medical appointment.

Q: This is an age-old question but it is important: Are vaccines safe for both children and adults?

A: Yes. Vaccines are tested and monitored. They go through years of testing before the Food and Drug Administration licenses them for use. Both the CDC and FDA continue to track the safety of all licensed vaccines. Vaccine side effects are usually mild and go away in a few days. The most common side effects include soreness, redness, or swelling where the shot was given. Severe side effects are very rare.

Q: Which children need to be immunized?

A: The Health Department provides recommended immunizations to children and adolescents less than 19 years of age.

Q: What vaccines are recommended for children ages birth through age 6?

A: Chickenpox, Diphtheria, Hib, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, HepB, Influenza, Measles, Mumps, Pertussis, Polio Pneumococcal, Rotavirus, Rubella, and Tetanus.

Q: How much does it cost to get immunizations at Whatcom County Health Department?

A: There is no charge for routine recommended vaccines at Whatcom County Health Department.

Q: Where can I get a copy of my immunization record?

A: You can call the Whatcom County Health Department at 360-778-6100 to request a copy of your immunization records for any vaccines received at the Health Department, or contact the Washington State Immunization registry at 800-325-5599.

For vaccines given elsewhere, contact the healthcare provider that gave the vaccines. Many healthcare practices, including the Whatcom County Health Department, participate in the Washington State Immunization Registry. The registry, however, may not show all vaccines given.

Q: Who may I contact for more information?

A: You may visit the office at Whatcom County Health Department, 1500 N. State St., Bellingham. You may call the office at 360-778-6100 or email it at