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!