Must-have vaccines for adults

Laura Mappas
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Vaccines for adults. Image: Getty

Experts say there are several vaccines that every adult should have …

Whooping cough vaccine
The good news is that if you get your tetanus-diphtheria booster every 10 years, you will get out of having to have an extra jab for pertussis (whooping cough). That's because the tetanus-diphtheria booster now also contains a pertussis component. This is important, because if pertussis isn't caught in the first few weeks of infection it can drag on for months. Babies are at the greatest risk and they almost always catch it from unvaccinated adults.

Chicken pox vaccine
This one should be at the top of the list for women who are thinking about having children. Most women in their child-bearing years will already be immune to chicken pox, because most would have already had the infection as kids. For the rest, it's important to get vaccinated before trying to get pregnant as catching the illness during pregnancy can result in birth defects for the baby.

If you do have to have the vaccine, it's then important to wait a month before trying to conceive as there is a risk that the fetus can catch the virus from the vaccine.

For adults the complications associated with chicken pox are even more severe than in children and can lead to life-threatening pneumonia, brain inflammation and shingles.

Shingles vaccines
Shingles is a painful reoccurrence of chicken pox and if usually affects adults in their 50s. Shingles can progress to a form of nerve damage called postherpetic neuralgia that can linger for years. You can lower your risk dramatically by getting the vaccine — it cuts the infection rate in half and reduces the risk of nerve damage by two-thirds.

The mumps vaccine
The measles-mumps-rubella vaccine is a must for kids, and is also back in the vaccine line-up for adults too.

Mumps can be painful and on occasions dangerous. The salivary glands swell and some women experience swelling of the ovaries. In rare cases, mumps can also trigger life-threatening encephalitis.

Traveller's vaccines
There's a long list of vaccines for holiday-makers. A flu shot is a good idea, especially if you're going on a cruise ship, where outbreaks often occur, and visitors to Asia should get protection against typhoid and Japanese encephalitis. Travellers to central Africa should get a meningococcal vaccine and those heading to South America and parts of Africa should get a shot for yellow fever.

Hepatitis B vaccine
Recombivax HB and Engerix-B both protect against hepatitis B, which is a sexually transmitted disease or contacted via contaminated blood and needles. Infection can lead to liver disease.


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