Back-to-school time means shopping for school or dorm room supplies, picking classes and savoring summer's waning days. But getting vaccinations is another item that should be on the to-do list.
Though people may consider vaccinations to be something only young kids need, there are vaccines that are recommended for older kids and teens, as well as adults. Keeping up with vaccinations is a healthy choice, experts say.
"Vaccinations are a victim of their own success," said Dr. Peter Wenger, an associate professor at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey–New Jersey Medical School. Because the shots have greatly reduced or eliminated so many cases of diseases, people assume they don't need them anymore.
"Just because you don't see the disease, doesn't mean that the agent isn't out there," Wenger said.
While the flu shot is the only vaccination that every person should get annually, other vaccinations are needed are on a less-often schedule. Primary care physicians can help out with monitoring, Wenger said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides complete lists of which vaccines kids and adults need, but here's a quick guide.
Kids age 6 and under
There's a reason vaccinations are thought to be a "kid thing," and that's because many shots are recommended for babies and young children.
Young children should be vaccinated against measles, mumps and rubella with the MMR vaccine. The IPV vaccine protects against polio, and the DTaP vaccine protects against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (also known as whooping cough).
Additionally, young kids should be vaccinated against hepatitis A and B, the chicken pox, rotavirus and pneumonia (the PCV vaccine).
Young children should also receive the hib vaccine, which protects against Haemophilus influenzae type b. This vaccine is only for children, because the risk of the disease disappears after age 5, Wenger said.
And children should get their flu shot on a yearly basis.
Kids ages 7 to 17
If they haven't gotten all of the vaccinations listed above, children of this age should receive "catch-up" vaccinations, with the exception of hib.
A booster shot of the DTap vaccine should be given at age 11 or 12, and children this age should also receive the meningococcal conjugate vaccine (MCV4). Flu shots should continue every year.
Additionally, in the prepubescent years, it is recommended that children be vaccinated against human papillomavirus (HPV), which the CDC recommends is done before young adults begin sexual activity, at age 11 or 12. Convincing parents of the need for this vaccine has proven tricky, however, as parents may have a difficult time understanding the need to vaccinate their children against a sexually transmitted disease before they hit sexual maturity, Wenger said.
The meningococcal conjugate vaccination, which protects against meningitis, is important for college students who may live in close quarters, and are therefore more susceptible to disease. Some colleges or universities demand proof of vaccination before allowing students to move in to dormitories. If a teen is moving into a dorm for private school or is going off to college earlier than age 18, the vaccine should be given earlier.
In adulthood, people should still update their tetanus, whooping cough and diphtheria vaccinations with a booster shot every 10 years. The CDC also recommends the HPV vaccine for young adults (ages 19 to 26) who were not previously vaccinated.
Additionally, an updated vaccine against mumps, rubella and measles is beneficial for adults, along with a yearly flu shot.
When adults reach their 60s, vaccines against shingles and pneumonia are important.
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