Most people associate vaccines with early childhood, but immunizations are necessary for good health at every age. August is National Immunization Awareness Month, and Tennova Healthcare is marking the occasion by sharing tips to keep adults healthy and protect them against disease.

  “The types of vaccines adults need largely depend on their age and overall health,” said Rachel Bowman, M.D., a family medicine physician with Tennova Primary Care – Farragut. “Previous vaccinations and health history also play a role. For example, adults with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes may need a pneumonia vaccination at the time of diagnosis of diabetes, rather than waiting until age 65.”

Your primary care physician can help you develop a personalized immunization schedule during your annual wellness visit. In the meantime, remember these guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Adult Immunization Schedule:

 ·         Every year, adults need a flu shot. The reason? Not only does immunity fade over time, but the influenza virus is constantly evolving. The vaccine is updated annually to target the newest and most threatening strains of the virus, ensuring that people have the most up-to-date protection. Get vaccinated as soon as the flu shot becomes available, which is usually in September.


·         Every 10 years, adults need a booster to protect against tetanus. Also known as lockjaw, tetanus is a serious bacterial infection that can cause muscle spasms as well as difficulty swallowing and breathing. The tetanus vaccine is a combination vaccine. In other words, you will either receive a vaccine that protects against tetanus and diphtheria (Td); or tetanus, diphtheria and whooping-cough-causing pertussis (Tdap). The CDC recommends getting one Tdap vaccine in late adolescence or early adulthood and following that with regularly scheduled Td boosters.


·         If you’re age 60 or older, get vaccinated against shingles. The varicella-zoster virus responsible for shingles is the same virus that causes chicken pox. Once you have had chicken pox, the virus lies dormant within your body and may reappear as shingles, a virus that can cause fatigue, a low-grade fever and a painful red rash. The shingles vaccine helps protect older adults—who are at greatest risk—from developing the shingles.


·         If you’re age 65 or older, it’s time to arm yourself against pneumonia. Two one-dose vaccines help protect against pneumonia: Prevnar 13 and Pneumovax 23. Plan to get the Prevnar 13 vaccine and then follow it up one year later with the Pneumovax 23 immunization. The pneumonia vaccines are covered by all Medicare plans.

“Staying up to date on immunizations not only safeguards your health, but the health of those around you,” Dr. Bowman said. “When most people in a community have been vaccinated, the disease cannot spread easily. This is called ‘herd immunity.’”

Remember the recent measles outbreak? In 2014, more than 600 cases of measles were reported in the United States, even though health officials declared measles “eliminated” in 2000. According to the CDC, travelers who are not vaccinated continue to bring measles into this country.

“When too few people have been vaccinated, herd immunity does not work,” Dr. Bowman added. “Everyone who is not vaccinated is at risk—including babies who are too young to receive certain vaccinations and people of all ages who may be unable to get vaccines because of health problems. When everyone who is able receives vaccines on schedule, the risk of disease outbreaks is lower, offering an extra layer of protection for all children and adults.”

Talk to your doctor if you have any questions about your vaccine history. For more information or to find a doctor, call 1-855-TENNOVA (836-6682) or visit

Tennova Healthcare offers preventive, diagnostic and treatment services at North Knoxville Medical Center, Physicians Regional Medical Center, Turkey Creek Medical Center, Jefferson Memorial Hospital, Lakeway Regional Hospital, LaFollette Medical Center and Newport Medical Center. With more than 200 primary care physicians working in collaboration with other medical specialists at multiple locations across the region, the health system is dedicated to offering quality care for every member of the family—close to home.