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.
"The impact of getting any of these bacterial infections or these viruses is detrimental and it's life-threatening," endocrinologist Dr. Lela Mansoori said.
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 older than 50 who have had chickenpox need a shingles vaccine. And for adults up to age 26, the human papilloma virus vaccine protects against several cancers.
"Now that HPV vaccine has been introduced, the rates of cancer is 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 older than 65, smokers and those younger than 65 who have chronic illnesses should get the vaccine.
"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 undervaccinated 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 says it's never too late to get caught up.
VACCINES ADULTS NEED
BACKGROUND: It is recommended for adults to keep their vaccinations up-to-date because immunity from childhood vaccines can wear off over time. There are also risks for different diseases as an adult. Vaccination is one of the most convenient and safest preventive care measures available. Vaccine-preventable diseases can cause long-term illness, hospitalization, and even death. In the United States, the CDC estimates that since 2010, flu-related hospitalizations have ranged from 140,000 to 710,000 and flu-related deaths have ranged from 12,000 to 56,000. About 900,000 people get pneumococcal pneumonia every year, leading to as many as 400,000 hospitalizations and 19,000 deaths. And, 700,000 to 1.4 million people suffer from chronic hepatitis B, with complications such as liver cancer. HPV causes over 27,000 cancers in women and men each year, while about 4,000 women die each year from cervical cancer. (Source: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/adults/index.html and https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/adults/vpd.html)
MOST COMMON ADULT VACCINES: The vaccines needed as an adult are determined by many factors including age, lifestyle, health condition, and which vaccines you've received during your life. As an adult, vaccines are recommended for protection against seasonal influenza. Everyone 6 months and older should get a flu vaccine every year as the best way to reduce the risk of flu and its potentially serious complications. Pertussis, also known as whooping cough is another recommended vaccine. The Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis) vaccine is recommended for women during each pregnancy and once for all adults who have not previously received it. Tetanus and diphtheria, the Td vaccine is recommended every 10 years. Shingles, the herpes zoster vaccine, is recommended for adults 50 years and older. Two pneumococcal vaccines are recommended for adults 65 years and older. One or both vaccines may be recommended for adults younger than 65 who have specific health conditions or who smoke cigarettes. (Source: https://www.cdc.gov/features/adultimmunizations/index.html)
VACCINE ADVANCES: Collaborative efforts in the United States between the federal government and the private sector have led to improved influenza vaccine technologies that have either expanded vaccine supply or improved vaccine effectiveness. And in some cases, has accomplished both goals. A long-term goal for flu vaccines is the development of a single vaccine that would provide safe, effective and long-lasting immunity against a broad spectrum of influenza viruses, both seasonal and novel. A flu vaccine with these qualities is often referred to as a "universal flu vaccine." At this time, CDC is participating in a broad inter-agency partnership coordinated by BARDA that supports the advanced development of new and better influenza vaccines in which these efforts have already yielded successes. This task poses an enormous scientific and programmatic challenge, but a number of government agencies and private companies already have begun work to advance development of a universal flu vaccine. (Source: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/prevent/advances.htm)