Be a Vaccine Superhero: Spare Yourself and Others From Disease
Aug 18, 2015
Written by Every Child By Two intern, Linn H.
As students of public health, through our courses and fieldwork, we often have the opportunity to travel the globe and work with populations from all walks of life. However, with these great opportunities comes a great responsibility to protect others by protecting ourselves.
I’m not saying we all need to be like Spider-Man here, or that we’re heroes with great power. But I do think that knowing you could have done something to prevent a certain fate is an important lesson.
Take for example the recent case of a Washington Women who died as a consequence of contracting measles at a local medical facility. Since she was on medication that suppressed her immune system, this tragedy illustrates the importance of immunizing those that are healthy in order to provide a high level of community protection to those who are more susceptible to illness.
This case illustrates the fact that many individuals rely on healthy adults like myself to help prevent the spread of dangerous and even deadly diseases. Infants too young to be vaccinated, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems (like those undergoing cancer treatment) are especially vulnerable to infectious disease.
That’s why it’s important for adults to become educated on the recommended adult vaccines. If we fail to get routine vaccinations as an adult, we put those around us and ourselves at risk.
As adults, there is often this misconception that vaccines are just for children, but we never outgrow the need for immunizations.
Vaccines are recommended throughout our lives based on age, lifestyle, occupation, locations of travel, medical conditions and vaccines received in the past.
Even if you were fully vaccinated as a child, the immunity that you received from some of the vaccines you were given can wear off. Vaccines not only prevent against illnesses that we’re susceptible to as adults, but they help protect others we come into contact with such as the very young, the very old, people with weakened immune systems, and those who cannot be vaccinated.
Some of the vaccines recommended for adults are highlighted on a spreadsheet here and include:
- Influenza (flu) vaccine each year to protect against seasonal flu. Flu vaccine reduces your risk of heart attacks or other flu related complications among people with pre-existing health conditions like asthma, diabetes, heart disease and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).
- Tdap booster vaccine to protect against pertussis (whooping cough), tetanus, and diphtheria, at least once every 10 years but more often if you are around young babies. In addition, pregnant women should receive a Tdap vaccine each time they are pregnant, preferably at 27 through 36 weeks.
- Other vaccines – such as shingles, pneumococcal, hepatitis, HPV – are dependent on one’s age, occupation, travel, health status, vaccination history, and other risk factors. For instance, Hepatitis B vaccine reduces your risk of liver cancer and HPV vaccine reduces your risk of cervical, penile, throat, anus and various other HPV-related cancers.
Despite the availability of life-saving vaccines, approximately 42,000 adults and 300 children in the United States die each year from vaccine-preventable diseases.
While we all get busy and may forget to prioritize our routine immunizations, this is exactly the reason why we need to be vigilant. We are too busy and have too much responsibility to risk getting sick. Vaccinations help keep us healthy so we don’t miss school or work, and so that we can continue to be the superheros that we are and save the world one meaningful interaction at a time!
I challenge you to embody a little bit of SPIDER-MAN this week. Be a hero and review your immunization history with your doctor to ensure you have received all the vaccines you need to keep yourself and your love ones protected.
If you’re unsure of which adult vaccines you may need, take this quick quiz and discuss your medical and immunization history with your doctor to find out which vaccines are recommended based on your age, health, job, lifestyle, and other factors.
Vaccines are not only available at private doctor offices, but also in such convenient locations as pharmacies, community health clinics and health departments. If you need help finding a vaccine provider near you, try searching the HealthMap Vaccine Finder site.
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