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The adult vaccines you might not know you need -- that could save your life

Every year, at least 45,000 adults in the United States die from diseases that can be prevented with a vaccine. Too few adults are protected against these deadly diseases, not necessarily because they don’t want to get the vaccines, but because they don’t even know they need them.

Too many adults in the U.S. are not protected against vaccine-preventable diseases.

“The impact of getting any of these bacterial infections or these viruses is detrimental and it’s life-threatening,” said Dr. Lela Mansoori, endocrinologist/hospitalist at Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Medical Center.

Last year, 61,000 Americans died from the flu. Only 45% of adults got the vaccine.

“If you get the flu vaccine and then you do still get the flu, it’ll decrease the severity of the flu and you’ll get over it much faster,” Mansoori said.

Adults also need a tetanus and diphtheria booster every 10 years. Adults over age 50 who have had chickenpox need a shingles vaccine. And for adults up to age 26, the HPV vaccine protects against several cancers.

“Now that HPV vaccine has been introduced, the rates of cancer are going down,” Mansoori said.

There’s a vaccine for pneumococcus, too.

“Pneumococcus is a very dangerous bacteria and it can cause pneumonia, it can cause meningitis, it can even cause sepsis,” Mansoori said.

People over the age of 65, smokers and those under 65 who have chronic illnesses should get it.

“If you get vaccinated, you’re not only protecting yourself, but you’re protecting everyone else around you, and it can be life-saving,” Mansoori said.

Lack of knowledge and awareness about what specific vaccines are needed is a key reason behind the under-vaccinated adult population. And that’s not just among patients.

One survey shows only 60% of doctors use official guidelines to inform their decisions regarding adult immunizations.

One other important note to mention for adults who didn’t get all or any of their childhood vaccines, doctors say it’s never too late to get caught up.