Vaccine Preventable Disease

Why do adults need Immunizations?

Vaccines are not just for children. Many parents are careful about protecting their children with vaccines but forget about protecting themselves. Adults continue to need immunizations for several reasons:

Some vaccines do not provide lifelong protection

In order to be protected against tetanus and diphtheria, all adults need a booster shot every 10 years. All adults should get an annual influenza vaccine especially health care workers and those with underlying chronic illnesses and those over 65 years.

Some adults may not have received all the recommended vaccines in childhood

People who grew up in a country outside of Canada may not have received all the immunizations that are recommended for Canadians. There may be other reasons for a person not receiving all of the routine vaccines for children - for example, leaving school before graduation or parental reasons for choosing not to immunize.

Some diseases, such as measles, that were once common are now rare because most children are immunized. However, it is still important for everyone to be protected against these diseases. If an outbreak of measles occurs in a community, adults who did not receive all their shots as children may be at high risk for serious disease. As another example, pregnant women who are not protected against rubella (German measles) may become infected and pass the infection on to their baby, causing serious birth defects. Other adults who are not protected against rubella can spread the disease to unprotected pregnant women.

Adults need to ensure their immunizations are updated before they travel

Most Canadians are not protected against diseases that do not exist in Canada - such as yellow fever, typhoid fever and Japanese encephalitis. Other diseases such as hepatitis A and hepatitis B are more common in other countries than they are in Canada. Before you travel to other parts of the world, you should find out what diseases may pose a risk to you. The vaccines will depend on where you are travelling and what you plan to do while there. For example, some tropical diseases may be a risk in rural areas of a country but not in a city. To get current information on which vaccines are required or recommended for travel, contact a travel health clinic or your local public health office.

How often should my immunizations be reviewed?

Adults should talk to their doctor or nurse about whether they need certain vaccines. Important times to review your vaccines are:

  • When you see a new doctor
  • If you are thinking about having children
  • If  you work with young children
  • If you are beginning work in health care or emergency response
  • If you develop a chronic disease
  • If you are having sexual contact with multiple partners
  • If you use intravenous drugs
  • Before you travel to an area that has diseases different than those where you usually live
  • If you are 65 or older
  • At least every 10 years
What are the potential risks of vaccines?

As with any medicines, there are very small risks that problems could occur for someone getting a vaccine. For all of the routine vaccines, your chance of being harmed by the infection is far greater than any chance of being harmed by the vaccine. Vaccines are among the safest medical interventions, and they are subjected to vigorous safety and quality control standards
The vaccines recommended for adults will protect you against serious diseases that have not disapeared from the world. If people stop using these vaccines, the diseases will almost certainly become common again, causing many illnesses and deaths. These vaccines are extremely safe and highly effective.

If you have any questions or concerns about vaccines check with your doctor or public health office.

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