Vaccines help the body become immune to diseases caused by bacteria or viruses. By exposing the body to an inactive or weakened form of the infection, the body can produce antibodies to fight off the infection. If you were to become infected again, the body would be able to recognise the infection and fight it off with antibodies.
Although vaccinations for babies and children may seem the norm, many people are unaware that adults also need vaccinations in order to stay healthy, prevent infection and the spread of many diseases. The vaccines that are received during childhood may not provide adequate protection through adulthood. Therefore adult vaccinations and boosters for the vaccines that you received as a child are needed. Vaccines are given to children on an immunisation schedule, and the same should be done for adults. Depending on the disease, some vaccines are given yearly to protect the body from changing forms of the virus, like that of the flu, while others are needed on schedule every 5 or 10 years for adults.
The specific vaccines that you may need as an adult are determined by your age, job, lifestyle, health conditions, travel destinations, as well as the previous vaccines you had as a child. Although vaccinations are recommended for all adults, Dr Mogambery emphasises that elderly individuals, individuals with immune diseases e.g. HIV or individuals with conditions that result in a weakened immune system e.g. diabetes mellitus and chronic obstructive lung disease ought to seek advice on appropriate vaccinations as their risk of contracting infections is much higher. Some of these infections are preventable by vaccination.
Aside from the disease and its symptoms itself, these infections may cause secondary complications and medical problems that may be extremely difficult to treat and persist long-term. With the advancement of medicine and vaccinations available for prevention of many deadly diseases, it is essential that we as adults take control of our health and aid our body's natural defences to safely develop immunity to disease.
Adults should have the following vaccinations or boosters for vaccinations they have had as a child:
- Hepatitis A and hepatitis B
- Haemophilus influenza type b (Hib) and influenza (flu)
- Human papillomavirus (HPV)
- Measles and mumps
- Pertussis (whooping cough)
- Pneumococcal disease, such as pneumonia
- Varicella (chickenpox) and shingles
Aside from building immunity to a specific virus or bacteria, vaccinations have also been known to lower one's chance of developing other conditions. Hepatitis B and HPV vaccinations may reduce your risk of certain cancers.
The flu vaccine is recommended annually as the virus changes ever so slightly every year. By taking the flu vaccine you protect yourself and those around you from contracting the flu. The flu vaccine is recommended for patients above 65 years old, those with chronic lung diseases, diabetes and heart failure as well as in pregnancy. In this group of patients, the flu vaccine can be life-saving as the complications of influenza-like flu-related heart attacks, pneumonia and exacerbation of heart failure can be fatal.
The pneumococcal vaccine has significantly reduced childhood invasive pneumococcal disease and is recommended in the elderly and those with chronic lung diseases.
Link to AAFP Adult vaccine schedule