in adulthood is just as important as it is for children and adolescents.
The recommendations for immunization are not standard, and will
vary for each woman, depending on lifestyle, susceptibility, travel
plans, profession, age and health. In order to find out which immunizations
are recommended for you and your lifestyle, it is best to see your
doctor. Some immunizations will last for a lifetime, which means
that if you had a vaccination when you were a child, you won’t
need it again. Other vaccinations, like tetanus and flu shots,
need to be retaken in order to remain effective over a lifespan.
A lot of conflicting information and myths are out there regarding
vaccinations being harmful. If you get your information from a
magazine or an exposé on television, talk to your doctor
before you formulate an opinion. The truth is, that although a
link between vaccines and medical conditions might be reported,
that doesn’t mean there is any direct correlation. Vaccinations
are proven to prevent serious and deadly conditions. Ask your doctor
if you are worried about the harmful effects of a vaccination,
but remember that the negative risks associated with a vaccine
are far, far less than the harm that could be caused by a disease
that a vaccine prevents.
Flu shots are in extremely high demand during the fall and the
beginning of the winter, when the flu season can get out of hand.
Most hospitals and doctor’s offices will provide the flu
shot for anybody who is interested. Sometimes, hospitals, doctors
and even states will run out of a supply for the vaccination because
it is in such a high demand. The flu shot prevents against influenza,
which is a common, extremely contagious, sickness that is caused
by a virus. The flu shot needs to be taken every year, because
the influenza virus continually changes and the vaccine needs to
be reformulated to offer protection against new strains. Many times
people decide to get a flu shot because they notice that they end
up with the flu every year, and desire extra protection against
the “flu epidemic,” which generally strikes every winter.
It is generally recommended that adults get the vaccine if they
are at greater risk for developing complications related to the
flu. This is for you if you are:
- over age 50
- have a serious medical condition such as HIV, cancer or diabetes
- will be pregnant during flu season (talk to your doctor about
all vaccines if you are pregnant)
- are taking medicine that suppresses your immune system
- or if you could pass the infection to somebody who is at higher
risk for developing complications (If you live in “close
quarters,” such as a dormitory, nursing home or an institution,
then you could also benefit from the flu shot. Talk to your doctor
before you decide to get the flu shot in case you have any specific
allergies that might cause you to reject the vaccination.)
Other vaccinations that might be recommended for an adult include:
Tetanus booster: This vaccination should be administered
every ten years throughout your life. Tetanus is a bacterial infection
caused by deep wounds, and you probably have heard about tetanus
regarding “rusty nails.” You can also get tetanus through
severe wounds without contact with rusty nails or metal of any
kind. Tetanus can be fatal, so it is important to protect yourself
against the disease. With immunization, tetanus is extremely rare.
If you are receiving the vaccination for the first time as an adult,
then you will need to have a series of three shots, spaced apart
by 1 to 2 months, and then 6 to 12 months.
Pneumococcal vaccine: This vaccination will prevent
against the bacteria that causes severe infections including pneumonia,
meningitis and blood infections. Because these infections can be
fatal in older adults, it is recommended that the vaccine be taken
after the age of 65. The vaccine is also recommended for adults
who have weakened immune systems due to medication or a condition,
have a chronic disease, don’t have a spleen (or have a weak
spleen), live in areas with an increased risk (talk to your doctor).
For adults, the form of vaccine is called pneumococcal polysaccharide
Measles, mumps and rubella vaccine: This vaccination
is widespread in the US, and most children receive two injections
and have immunity. If you are an adult who was born after 1957
(born before that year means you are considered immune) and you
never received the vaccine, then you should. Healthcare workers
and college students are also required to get the vaccine. So are
non-pregnant women of child-bearing age who do not already have
Chicken pox vaccine: You’ve probably already
heard that chicken pox can be very serious if contracted during
adulthood, but it is especially dangerous if you get it while you
are pregnant. If you are not already immune to chicken pox (immunity
is generally attained by having the infection already), then it
is recommended that you get a chicken pox vaccine. If you don’t
remember if you ever had chicken pox, or want to double check,
a simple blood test can show if you have immunity. The shot is
a series of two shots, 4 weeks apart, for anyone over the age of
13. You should not get the shot if you are pregnant.
Hepatitis A vaccine: Hepatitis A is a liver disease
that is potentially serious. There is an increased risk for contacting
hepatitis A among children and teens living in group settings.
If you have not already had a hepatitis vaccination as an adult,
it is recommended that you do so. The hepatitis A vaccine is administered
in a series of two doses, given 6 to 18 months apart.
Hepatitis B vaccine: Hepatitis B is a liver condition
that could cause serious complications. If you are an adult who
does not have immunity, it is recommended that you have the vaccination.
The vaccination is administered in a series of three shots and
is safe for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. In response
to the shot, you may experience pain or a low fever.
In addition to the above mentioned vaccinations, you might need
to get additional vaccinations if you intend to travel out of the
country, particularly to underdeveloped countries. Your age, health,
location and length of stay are all factors in considering whether
vaccination is necessary. If you are traveling to countries in
Africa, Asia, and Central and South America, you might be at a
greater risk for contracting such diseases as yellow fever and
typhoid fever. Talk to your doctor to get complete information
about vaccinations well in advance of your trip (at least one month).
Because of recent events that have caused fear in the American
populations regarding bioterrorism, many people are concerned about
getting immunizations against biological weapons. Immunizations
against anthrax and smallpox, however, are not available to the
general public. They are also not recommended because of serious
side effects. If you feel that you are at high risk of coming into
contact with anthrax or contacting smallpox, you may be eligible
for the vaccinations. This high-risk group includes healthcare
workers in bioterrorism fields, infection-control personnel, military
personnel and lab workers who deal with imported or infected animals.