William Schaffner, MD, professor of preventive medicine and infectious diseases, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville.
We all are weary of the constant messaging to get COVID-19 vaccines—but that doesn’t make the need for immunizations for other infectious diseases any less important. Bring this checklist to your next health-care appointment to make sure you are up to date on all of your vaccinations…
Flu. Everyone six months and older should be vaccinated against influenza annually. Certain people are at high risk for flu complications, including older adults and those with chronic illnesses. Optimal time to get the vaccine is October through early November for maximum protection from December to February, when flu season peaks. For people age 65+: Three types of flu vaccine are recommended for older adults—a high-dose shot…an adjuvant vaccine, which provokes a stronger immune reaction…and a recombinant vaccine, which is safe for people with egg allergies. All of these work better than the standard flu shots given to adults under age 65 and will protect against the four strains of the influenza virus expected during the 2022–2023 flu season.
Pneumonia. All adults ages 65 and older should get vaccinated for pneumonia. If you are younger than 65 but have an illness or risk factors, ask your doctor if you should get a pneumonia shot sooner.
Shingles. This infection causes painful blisters and nerve pain. It is caused by the chickenpox virus, which lies dormant in the body after childhood infection until something triggers it. Two shots separated by two to six months are recommended for all adults over age 50.
Hepatitis B. Adults up to age 60 should receive a hepatitis B vaccine to prevent liver disease caused by this virus, which is spread through contact with blood, semen and bodily fluids, typically during sexual contact or use of contaminated needles. Hepatitis B virus (HBV) also can be spread through household contact with HBV-infected people. You’re unlikely to get it after age 60, but if you have diabetes and monitor blood sugar via finger sticks or give yourself insulin injections, ask your doctor if you should get the vaccine.
Tetanus and diphtheria. A booster of this vaccine is needed every 10 years.
COVID-19. Updated vaccines by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna are recommended by the CDC to replace the original vaccines. Both have been adapted to the primary COVID-19 strain and highly infectious Omicron variants BA.4 and BA.5. Pfizer/BioNTech’s vaccine is authorized for people as young as 12…Moderna for those 18 and older. The CDC recommends adults get the updated vaccine two months (or longer) after completing the initial two-dose series. For added protection: If your previous shots were all of one brand, try a different brand if you are over the age of 60. To find vaccine locations: Visit Vaccines.gov.
Monkeypox. This disease rarely causes death, but it can necessitate quarantine for several weeks. Monkeypox spreads through prolonged close contact such as hugging or touching or via shared clothing and towels. Vaccines are available only to high-risk people through state and local health departments.
Polio. If you weren’t vaccinated as a child, were incompletely vaccinated or are are traveling to a place where you could be exposed to poliovirus, the CDC recommends a series of up to three shots, several months apart.