Home HEALTH Disease Defense

Disease Defense


Here’s what you need to know about adult immunizations.

AdultImmunizationsWhat vaccinations are important to get yearly? How long should you wait in between vaccinations? Are there any immunizations you need to get as you age?

Knowing the answers to these questions will help keep you — and others around you — protected from communicable diseases like the flu, measles, mumps, whooping cough and other illnesses. “Immunizations are important to prevent further transmissions of disease to others,” says Dr. Maureen Hecker-Rodriguez, an internist at Touro Infirmary.

Immunizations, also called vaccines, help your body build resistance to diseases by introducing a tiny bit of a given disease into your system. “Some people are hesitant, but the more we immunize, the less we transmit disease,” Dr. Hecker-Rodriguez explains. “Most vaccines are covered by general insurance and Medicare.”

Talk to your doctor about which immunizations you should receive, as not all vaccines are suitable for every person or age group. Here, we cover common questions about immunization.

Adult Immunization FAQ

What immunizations should adults ages 18-50 get?
The flu vaccine is among the most important immunizations you can receive. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most adults should get a yearly flu vaccine during the flu season.

The tetanus immunization is another commonly given, important vaccine. Ten years is the most time you should allow to elapse between your tetanus immunizations. “This is a great year for tetanus vaccines, because 2015 is the 10-year mark from Katrina,” Dr. Hecker-Rodriguez says. If the last time you received a tetanus shot was 2005, it’s time for another one.

Speaking of tetanus …

Why is it important to get an updated tetanus immunization if I haven’t had one in 10 years?
The tetanus vaccine, often abbreviated as “Tdap,” also contains immunizations for pertussis (whooping cough) and diphtheria. “Every adult should get one tetanus update that contains pertussis,” Dr. Hecker-Rodriguez says. According to The New England Journal of Medicine and other sources, whooping cough has made a recent resurgence in the United States due to fears of vaccination. That means it’s all the more important to stay up-to-date on your Tdap immunization, which can protect you from whooping cough and help keep this preventable disease from spreading further.

If you’ve already had a Tdap immunization within the past 10 years, you should receive only tetanus when it comes time for a booster shot.

What immunizations should adults ages 60 and older get?
Shingles and pneumonia vaccines are recommended for older adults. “When you start getting to the age of 60, the shingles vaccine is recommended (because your immunity drops),” Dr. Hecker-Rodriguez explains. “Even people who have had shingles previously need to get vaccinated.”

Adults 65 and older should receive an updated pneumonia vaccine. Previously, there was just one pneumonia vaccine; now, a combination of two immunizations called Prevnar and PPSV23 offers additional protection. “The CDC just came out with a new guideline,” Dr. Hecker-Rodriguez says. “You start with the Prevnar, and, then, 11 months later, you do the second one.”

What vaccines are important when living in close quarters with others?
College students, members of the military and others who live in close quarters should receive a meningococcal vaccine or booster shot to protect against bacterial meningitis. Meningitis inflames the membranes surrounding your brain and spinal cord, and its early symptoms can be confused for the flu.

Where can I find more information on vaccine schedules and side effects?
“Any person who gets vaccinated should receive a VIS, or Vaccine Information Statement,” Dr. Hecker-Rodriguez says. “This is mandated by the government.”

A VIS lists the risks and benefits of a given vaccine, as well as normal side effects and signs of an unusual vaccine reaction. “A lot of times, you may have a little bit of pain at the injection site — but you should certainly not have any more than that,” Dr. Hecker-Rodriguez says. “Any fevers should be reported.”

Dr. Maureen Hecker-Rodriguez
Crescent City Physicians
3525 Prytania St., Suite 620
New Orleans, LA 70115
(504) 894-5640

MEDICAL SCHOOL: Louisiana State University
RESIDENCY: Louisiana State University, Internal Medicine
BOARD ELIGIBLE: Internal Medicine