The 6 Vaccines All Parents (and Grandparents) Need

Vaccinations aren't just for children -- all adults (parents or not) should get vaccinated to protect themselves and children from preventable diseases.
woman receiving a vaccine

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Kids aren't the only ones who need vaccinations. Every year, more than 600,000 adults die from vaccine-preventable illnesses. What's more, "When adults get vaccinated, it curbs the spread of disease to infants and children who are either too young to be immunized or not yet fully protected," says Anita Chandra-Puri, M.D., a spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics and a pediatrician at Northwestern Memorial Physicians Group in Chicago. Here's a look at vaccines the CDC says all adults need.

MEASLES-MUMPS-RUBELLA (MMR) VACCINE

Why You Need It: Every year, nearly 200,000 people worldwide die from measles. In 2011, international travelers exposed 200 unvaccinated children and adults in the U.S. to the disease. All three viruses -- measles, mumps, and rubella (also called German measles) -- can cause miscarriages or birth defects.

Get It If:

  • You were born in 1957 or later and have never been immunized.
  • You're traveling overseas (booster shot).
  • You work in health care (booster shot).
  • You're a woman of childbearing age.
  • You're a college student, trade school student, or a student beyond high school.

Skip It If:

  • You're pregnant (because the vaccine contains weakened, but live, virus strains).
  • You're trying to conceive. (Use birth control for a month after getting the vaccine.)
  • You were born before 1957 and were exposed to the viruses (a blood test can confirm immunity).
  • You're allergic to gelatin or the antibiotic neomycin.
  • Your immune system is severely compromised due to HIV/AIDS or cancer.
  • You had blood tests that show you are immune to measles, mumps, and rubella.
  • You already had two doses of MMR or one dose of MMR plus a second dose of measles vaccine.
  • You already had one dose of MMR and are not at high risk of measles or mumps exposure.

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The Vaccine Schedule
The Vaccine Schedule

Flu and Chickenpox Vaccines

INFLUENZA VACCINE

Why You Need It: About 40,000 people die every year from the flu. Infants can get the vaccine starting at 6 months of age, but before that, they're particularly vulnerable to this deadly virus. Pregnant women are more likely to be hospitalized with flu-related complications than with the flu itself.

Get It If:

  • Adults should get the flu vaccine every year. Healthy adults age 18 to 49 can get the nasal-spray vaccine

Skip It If:

  • You have severe egg allergies.
  • Pregnant women should not get the nasal-spray vaccine because it contains weakened, but live, virus strains.
  • You've had Guillain-Barr? Syndrome, a disorder that causes your immune system to attack your nervous system.

VARICELLA (CHICKENPOX) VACCINE

Why You Need It: Children and adults can develop -- and even die from -- pox-induced complications like pneumonia and infections of the brain, bone, skin, and blood. Before the vaccine was introduced to the U.S. in 1995, about 100 people died from chickenpox every year and 11,000 more were hospitalized. Even kids with mild cases miss about 6 days of school (and that means missed work days).

Get It If:

  • You've never had chickenpox.
  • You've only had one vaccination dose (booster shot).

Skip It If:

  • You're pregnant (because the vaccine contains weakened, but live, virus strains).
  • You're trying to conceive. (Use birth control for a month after getting the vaccine.)
  • You're allergic to gelatin or the antibiotic neomycin.
  • Your immune system is severely compromised due to HIV/AIDS or cancer.

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Tetanus/Whooping Cough and Hepatitis B Vaccines

TETANUS AND DIPHTHERIA (TD) OR TETANUS, DIPHTHERIA, AND PERTUSSIS (TDAP OR DTAP) VACCINE

Why You Need It: Protection against tetanus (also known as lockjaw, a disease caused by a bacterial infection), diphtheria (a respiratory infection), and pertussis (whooping cough) fades over time. The bacteria that causes lockjaw makes a toxin, or poison, that causes severe muscle spasms. Newborns are especially vulnerable to these illnesses during the first six weeks because they're not old enough to be vaccinated. The Td booster dose is recommended every 10 years, but the Tdap is given only once.

Get It If:

  • You're age 64 or younger and you weren't previously vaccinated (get Tdap).
  • You're age 65 or older and are in close contact with infants younger than 12 months (get Tdap).
  • You're age 65 or younger and are in close contact with infants younger than 12 months (get Td booster).
  • It's been 10 years since your last Tdap or Td vaccination (get Td booster).
  • You work in health care (get either Tdap or Td booster).

Skip It If:

  • You're less than 20 weeks pregnant. Tdap or Td can be given later in pregnancy or after childbirth.
  • You have epilepsy, Guillain-Barr? Syndrome, or another nervous system disorder.

HEPATITIS B VACCINE

Why You Need It: Many of the 1 million people infected with hepatitis B don't know they have it. Infected mothers can pass the disease, which causes liver disease and cancer, to infants at birth.

Get It If:

  • You're pregnant and haven't been vaccinated already.
  • You have more than one sexual partner.
  • You're age 60 or older and have diabetes.
  • You work in health care.
  • You live with someone who has hepatitis B.

Skip It If:

  • You have a life-threatening allergy to yeast.

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Shingles and Pneumonia Vaccines

HERPES ZOSTER (SHINGLES) VACCINE

Why You Need It: Your childhood chickenpox virus can reactivate as shingles during adulthood, resulting in nerve pain that lasts for months or even years. People infected with shingles can pass the chickenpox virus to unvaccinated children.

Get It If:

  • You're age 60 or older.

Skip It If:

  • You're allergic to gelatin or the antibiotic neomycin.
  • Your immune system is severely compromised due to HIV/AIDS or cancer.

PNEUMOCOCCAL POLYSACCHARIDE OR PPSV (PNEUMONIA) VACCINE

Why You Need It: More than 1 million Americans are hospitalized with pneumonia every year. Infants, young children, and older adults are highly vulnerable to the pneumococcus bacteria, which cause pneumonia, meningitis, and blood infections. Pregnant women have an increased risk of premature labor.

Get It If:

  • You're age 65 or older.
  • You have a serious health problem like kidney failure, lymphoma or leukemia, cancer or HIV/AIDS.
  • You smoke.
  • You've had your spleen damaged or removed.

Skip It If:

  • You're age 64 or younger and in good health.

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