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Dispatch: What You Need to Know About Adult Vaccines

With the most cases of measles reported in the U.S. since 1992, more and more adults are considering getting vaccinated against the highly contagious virus, a subject that often gets overlooked in the health care community.

“It’s sort of the `ugly duckling’ of health care,” said Joseph Gastaldo, MD, an infectious disease specialist at OhioHealth Riverside Methodist Hospital, to Dispatch reporter Ken Gordon in a recent interview. “Everybody is worried about cancer or cardiovascular disease, and adult vaccines are not emphasized enough.”

Though measles has recently been on the rise in the U.S., it’s far from the only disease adults should be vaccinated against. According to the CDC, adults should have up to a half-dozen or more vaccinations, including an annual flu shot, Tdap booster, HPV vaccine and vaccinations against pneumococcal infections of the lungs and bloodstream.

Dr. Gastaldo also recommends the shingles vaccine for adults ages 50 and over.

“If you had chicken pox as a kid, the virus stays in you the rest of your life,” Dr. Gastaldo said. “And as you get older, for reasons we don’t know, the virus can reactivate and you get shingles. Shingles is not a disease to blow off: It can affect your eyes and your ears, and even after it goes away, residual pain can stick around a long time.”

In terms of the MMR vaccine, Dr. Gastaldo explains that adults are at a higher risk of weakened immunity, even after receiving the measles vaccine as a child. As you age, your cells can “forget” what your body’s been exposed to, which increases your chances of contracting the virus.

Depending on your age, occupation and other risk factors, receiving the MMR vaccine or booster, amongst others, may be the right option for you.

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