Why Do You Need to Get Immunizations?
Immunizations protect you from a number of contagious diseases and conditions that can be dangerous and even deadly. Understanding what vaccinations are and what risks they do and do not pose is important for making informed decisions about your health. Here, we look at vaccines, including what they are, how they work, and why they’re so important.
What Are Immunizations?
Immunizations help prevent diseases from spreading, and they have even eradicated diseases like polio and diphtheria that in recent history caused widespread death and disability. Before vaccines, the only way to become immune to these and other diseases was to get–and survive–the disease. Once someone had the disease, their immune system would, in the future, recognize and fight off the pathogen that caused it.
Vaccines work by “training” the immune system to recognize and fight viruses or bacteria without actually getting sick from the disease. In order to train the body to do this, molecules call antigens from the bacteria or virus are introduced into the body. This produces an immune response, which triggers the immune system to recognize and eradicate the antigen in the future, before it spreads and causes illness.
Vaccines don’t just protect the vaccinated. Some people, such as the elderly, pregnant women, young infants, and people with a compromised immune system, are unable to get vaccinated. But if enough people in the community are immunized against a certain diseases, most unvaccinated members of the community will be protected too, because the disease has little opportunity to spread and make people sick. This is known as herd immunity, or community immunity. When too many people are unvaccinated, outbreaks often occur, such as the recent measles outbreaks across the country.
Mathematical formulas and computer simulations help scientists determine what proportion of the population needs to be immunized against a certain disease in order to eliminate its spread and even eradicate it, much like smallpox was eradicated in the 1970s after a successful worldwide immunization campaign.
Are Vaccines Safe?
Like any medication, vaccines can cause a range of side-effects. The most common side-effects are a low-grade fever and pain and redness at the injection site. Vaccines do not cause the disease they’re used to prevent, and an enormous body of research shows that they do not cause autism.
Vaccines for Adults
In addition to childhood vaccinations, adults may need additional immunizations or boosters shots to shore up previous vaccines. The vaccines you need depend on a range of factors, including your age and whether you travel overseas or work with children.
These are the vaccinations Horizon Primary Care offers to adults, along with information about who needs them.
Diphtheria, Tetanus, and Pertussis (Tdap Vaccine)
Adults who weren’t given a Tdap vaccination as an adolescent should get one now to protect against whooping cough, which is highly contagious and potentially dangerous, especially for babies. Pregnant women should get a Tdap between 27 and 36 weeks for each pregnancy. Every 10 years, adults should get a Td (tetanus and diphtheria) booster shot.
As many as 95,000 Americans died from the flu over the course of the 2017-2018 season, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Although that was a particularly bad year for the flu, many thousands of people die from it in the U.S. every year. The flu vaccine is recommended for everyone over the age of six months, and it’s essential for elderly people, pregnant women, and people who have a compromised immune system. A new flu vaccine is produced every year, since flu viruses are constantly changing. Researchers base each year’s vaccine on which viruses are spreading and making people sick and how well last season’s vaccine will protect against the new viruses.
Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)
Human papilloma virus, or HPV, is a very common sexually transmitted disease that infects around 14 million Americans each year, and many of them never know they have it. Left untreated, HPV can cause genital warts and anal, cervical, and other cancers. The HPV vaccine prevents nearly 32,000 cases of cancer each year. It’s recommended for women up to the age of 26, men up to the age of 21, and men between the ages of 22 and 26 who have sex with other men.
Pneumococcal vaccines protect against pneumococcal diseases caused by bacteria known as Streptococcus pneuoniae. These bacteria can invade the blood stream and cause a range of problems, including pneumonia, sinus infections, middle ear infections, and meningitis. Pneumococcal diseases cause thousands of deaths every year, mostly in people over the age of 65. The pneumococcal vaccine protects against the 23 types of Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria that cause over 90 percent of pneumococcal diseases in adults. It’s administered in two shots, and it will be effective for the rest of your life.
Shingles is a painful disease that causes nerve pain and a painful, blistering rash. Caused by the varicella-zoster virus, which also causes chickenpox, shingles becomes more common in aging populations. It can have devastating consequences, including vision loss and neurological problems. The shingles vaccine should be administered every four to five years and is recommended for healthy adults 50 years old and older.
Immunizations Overview Wrap Up
Immunizations can protect you and your family against a wide range of diseases with very little risk. Horizon Primary Care can help you get up to date on your immunizations for better health and optimal disease prevention.