Americans are not getting their recommended vaccinations, putting themselves and others at risk of serious disease.

This was among the findings by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as they released their guidance on immunizations for adults.

A National Health Survey of adults found:

  • Only 43% of people aged 19 and older received an annual flu shot
  • Just 20% had a Tdap vaccine, which protects against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis
  • Just 20% received a pneumonia vaccine for people between 19 and 64 years of age who are considered high risk for developing the illness
  • Among older adults, just 27 percent of people older than 60 were vaccinated with the virus that reduces the incidence of shingles

It's a common misconception for adults to think that they are protected from these diseases because they had childhood immunizations. However, as we age, we lose our immunities. In some cases, such as with Tdap, the vaccine has changed, making adults more susceptible to disease than they know.

The report also found that the rates of immunization were worse among minorities and the uninsured. People with health insurance are two to five times more likely to get their recommended immunizations.

Recommended vaccines

Prevention is very important. All adults should get the flu vaccine annually. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices says adults should receive a tetanus booster once every 10 years and also one dose of Tdap, which protects against whooping cough or pertussis. Women are advised to get the Tdap vaccine for each pregnancy as it protects babies from whooping cough.

Young adults ages 18 to 25 can still benefit from the HPV vaccine if they haven’t already received it. This age group should also receive the meningitis vaccine.

At age 60, people should get a zoster shot to prevent shingles, even if they have had shingles before. Two different types of pneumococcal vaccines are recommended for adults at age 65 to protect against pneumonia – sepsis and meningitis.

Older people who are physically active or teach in a college or come in contact with younger people need the meningitis vaccine. Grandparents who come into contact with children should receive a Tdap.

In addition, if you did not have all the necessary childhood immunizations, the CDC recommendations the vaccinations for the following: measles, mumps and rubella (MMR); chicken pox; and human papillomavirus (HPV). Pregnant women should not get the MMR or chickenpox vaccines.

Certain people with other medical conditions may require additional vaccinations so speak to your provider about your health concerns. Also, if you plan to travel abroad, you may need added vaccinations.

Changes to the vaccine schedule

In 2017, important changes to the recommended guidelines occurred. For example, while everyone ages 6 months and older should get their annual flu shot, the nasal vaccine is no longer recommended for anyone.

Gibson recommends that people receive their annual flu vaccine no earlier than October in order to get the best protection possible with the formula of the vaccine that captures all the likely strains.

Another new guideline says young people vaccinated for HPV before age 15 only need two doses given at least five months apart rather than three doses. If you’re older than 15 and haven’t been vaccinated yet, you will still need three rounds of the vaccination.

People with liver disease should get the hepatitis B vaccine, which protects against liver cancer. People with HIV or human immunodeficiency virus need two doses of a meningococcal vaccine.

If you are unsure about whether you are up-to-date on your vaccines, schedule an appointment with a Novant Health provider.