August is National Immunization Awareness Month. “But I got all my shots when I was a kid!” you say. Not so fast. Childhood shots don’t necessarily last forever (that is, confer lifelong immunity) and sometimes you need to get boosters. For instance, if you’ve got a chronic illness, work with children, will be living in a dorm with lots of people, or are traveling to another country, you might need to give your immune system a jump-start. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) advises people to protect their health by getting vaccinated against infectious disease.
I’m traveling to China next month, and was advised to get Hepatitis A and B series, as well as a typhoid vaccine and a tetanus/diphtheria/pertussis (Tdap) booster. It’s a bit unnerving to consider that water quality and public sanitation issues over there might put me at risk, but I was surprised to learn that (perhaps typhoid aside) these shots are recommended for most adults even if they’ll be staying stateside. Yeah, food service workers are required by law to wash their hands after using the restroom, but do they? What about these E.Coli infections that people can get from salad bars? Sometimes it seems like a miracle that we don’t get sick more often than we do, but it wasn’t all that long ago that people died from diseases which, today, are routinely prevented with a simple shot in the arm.
Who should get vaccinated? Adults with chronic diseases such as asthma, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), diabetes, or heart disease should get vaccinated. Adults who will be in close contact with the very young, the very old, people with weakened immune systems, or people who can’t get vaccinated themselves should get vaccinated.
Everyone should get a flu shot each year (and no, you can’t get the flu from a flu shot). Other vaccinations, such as for Hepatitis, shingles, pneumococcal disease, or Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) might be required at different points in an adult’s lifespan as well.
Of course, there are always exceptions; depending on your personal health profile, particular vaccinations may not be right for you, or you may need a particular form of vaccine. Don’t disregard vaccinations out of hand, though — get the facts and protect yourself. The CDC has more information at http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/ about who should get vaccinated, for which diseases, and when.
— Pam Saussy, Board Member