Are your vaccinations up to date?

If you read our last post on adult immunization, you know how important it is to make sure your vaccinations are current. There is a lot riding on your good health, and vaccinations are an important part of a smart wellness plan.

But how do you know if you’re up to date on all the recommended vaccinations, and when should they be administered? We’ll take a closer look at both of these important questions, but first, a quick overview of how vaccines work.

How vaccines work

The Oxford dictionary defines immunity as “the ability of an organism to resist a particular infection or toxin by the action of specific antibodies or sensitized white blood cells.” Where do antibodies come from? Simply stated, your body makes antibodies when a disease germ is detected. Once formed, these antibodies fight the disease germ, and as a result, you get better. And because you’ve now developed immunity, they also keep you from getting sick if the same germ is introduced again.

However, antibodies are unable to prevent you from getting sick in the first place because they form after the germ is introduced. That’s why vaccines are so important — they enable your body to make the antibodies before you get sick.

Vaccines are developed from the killed or weakened germs of a disease or virus. Once introduced into the body, your immune system reacts as it would to the live germ and creates antibodies. These antibodies then remain in your system for an extended period of time, fighting the live disease germ as soon as it’s introduced to your body. In other words, it gives your immune system a head start, or advantage, in immediately resisting the germ.

Staying up-to-date on vaccinations

Because vaccines last for varying periods of time, it’s important to stay current on your vaccinations so that your immune system can continue to fight incoming germs. How do you know how long a vaccination lasts and which ones you need? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offer a thorough and easy-to-read chart of the recommended adult immunizations.

Grouped by age, this chart identifies what vaccinations “are recommended” and which ones “may be recommended.” It also notes when, and if, a booster is needed. Additionally, the chart provides recommendations by health condition, making clear which groups should not receive particular vaccines. It is updated annually by the CDC to ensure the most current information is reflected.

For example, unless your healthcare provider says otherwise, all adults ages 19 – 65+ should receive an annual influenza (flu) vaccination. However, the shingles vaccine is only recommended for adults 60 and over, but that includes anyone who may have already had shingles. And the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine is recommended for adults ages 19 – 59, only if they did not get it as a child. Recommendations are laid out clearly in the chart for these and a number of other diseases, too.

You can also find additional information, like immunization recommendations for travelers, as well as some useful tools on the CDC’s website. The Adult Vaccination Quiz asks a series of simple age, health and lifestyle questions to provide you with a list of vaccinations that you may possibly need; you can then print this list and bring it with you to your next physician’s appointment.

Remember, you never outgrow the need for vaccines, so it is important that you keep track of your vaccination records. Be sure to share your immunity history with your Women’s Care Florida OB/GYN to ensure you stay on schedule and stay healthy!

For more detailed information on each of the adult vaccinations, we encourage you to visit the immunization page on this website. To find a Women’s Care Florida OB/GYN, click here.

Vaccinations to receive before pregnancy

Before you make plans to become pregnant, it’s important that you speak to your OB-GYN about vaccinations that can help protect you and your baby from certain infections during pregnancy. Make sure your vaccinations are up to date before you become pregnant, and consult with your doctor before getting vaccinated to confirm the vaccines are safe for you and your baby.

Here’s a list of vaccinations you should receive before you become pregnant, according to the CDC.

Flu vaccine

The ideal time to get the flu vaccine is once per year between October and May before flu season begins. At present, there are two types of flu vaccines: the flu shot, and a flu nasal spray. Both vaccines are safe to get before you become pregnant, but wait at least one month before conceiving if you opt for the flu nasal spray. Women who get the flu during pregnancy are often at higher risk for major complications such as pneumonia, but flu vaccine can help lower your risk for getting the disease.

HPV vaccine

This vaccine helps protect you from getting HPV, which can cause genital warts and eventually lead to cervical cancer and cancers of the vulva and vagina. The HPV vaccine is mainly recommended for women aged 26 and under.

MMR vaccine

The MMR vaccine protects you against measles, mumps, and rubella, and lowers your risk for miscarriage, premature birth, and stillbirth should you develop any of these diseases while you’re pregnant. Rubella can also cause congenital rubella syndrome in your baby, which can lead to birth defects such as vision problems, hearing problems, and heart defects.

Varicella vaccine

This vaccine protects you from chickenpox, which can be dangerous for your unborn baby and increase the risk for birth defects. If you’ve never had chickenpox, or haven’t been vaccinated for the disease, inform your OB-GYN immediately so you can receive the varicella vaccine.

Vaccines to avoid during pregnancy

If you find out you’re already pregnant before you get the recommended vaccines, inform your OB-GYN, since some vaccines are not safe to receive during pregnancy. If you’ve received any of the below vaccines, wait at least one month before becoming pregnant.

Vaccines that are not safe during pregnancy are:

  • MMR
  • Varicella
  • Flu mist / flu nasal spray
  • BCG
  • Meningococcal
  • Typhoid

Getting caught up on recommended vaccines can help protect you and your baby throughout pregnancy and beyond. Don’t put off getting vaccinated; see your OB-GYN to find out which vaccines you need.

Women’s Care Florida can provide immunizations at the time of your scheduled appointment or annual exam. Schedule an appointment with WCF today to receive the latest recommended vaccines, and to get your questions about immunizations answered by an experienced, board-certified OB-GYN.