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Health answers: What vaccines do I need as an adult?

Q. What vaccines do I need as an adult?

A. Although you may have thought you’d outgrown shots, people over 18 need vaccines too, according to public health officials.

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Some vaccines — such as the one for whooping cough — are needed to update the protection you got as a child. Other infections, like the flu, evolve rapidly, so a new shot protects against viral strains that developed since your last dose.

Since an outbreak of whooping cough in California in 2010 that led to the death of 10 infants, health care providers have been eager to ensure that adults — particularly those in close contact with infants — are vaccinated against the disease. Adults can have whooping cough, also called pertussis, without knowing it and could pass it on to others, including babies too young to get the vaccine.

Other vaccinations recommended for adults include a tetanus-diphtheria booster every 10 years (some versions include whooping cough); a vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella; and the shingles vaccine for adults 60 and older.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, other vaccinations you may need, depending on age and other factors, include those that protect against human papillomavirus; hepatitis A and B; meningococcal disease; and chickenpox.

If you can’t remember whether your shots are up to date, public health officials recommend getting new ones.

“People, because they’re not sure, they’re afraid to get revaccinated,” said Susan D. Breen, senior director, Public Health Nursing Services for the Cambridge Public Health Department.

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