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Vaccines Are Very Safe; Adults Need Them Too

Vaccines have greatly reduced or eliminated many infectious diseases that once routinely killed or harmed infants, children, and adults. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cautions us that the viruses and bacteria that cause these diseases still exist and you can still get these diseases if you are not vaccinated. During August, National Immunization Awareness Month, the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH), reminds people of all ages how important immunizations are for adults, as well as children.

Every year thousands of adults become seriously ill and are hospitalized because of diseases that vaccines can help prevent. Many adults even die from these diseases. By getting vaccinated, you can help protect yourself from much of this unnecessary suffering.

Even if you received the vaccines you needed as a child, the protection from some vaccines can diminish. As we get older, our immune systems tend to weaken over time, putting us at higher risk for certain diseases. You may also be at risk for other diseases due to your job, lifestyle, travel, or health conditions. CDC and ADPH have information to help you learn what vaccines you may need based on different risk factors. Talk with your healthcare provider about the vaccines you should safely receive based on your health or other conditions.

Vaccines are tested and monitored. Vaccines go through years of testing before the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) licenses them for use. Both the CDC and the FDA continue to track the safety of all licensed vaccines. Any vaccine side effects are usually mild and go away in a few days. The most common side effects include soreness, redness, or swelling where the shot was given. Severe side effects are very rare. CDC notes the benefits of vaccines for adults:

Vaccines can lower your chance of getting certain diseases.

Vaccines work with your body’s natural defenses to help you safely develop immunity to disease. This lowers your chances of getting certain diseases and suffering from their complications. For instance:

  • Hepatitis B vaccine lowers your risk of liver cancer.
  • HPV vaccine lowers your risk of cervical, oral, anal, penile, throat, and head cancers.
  • Flu vaccine lowers your risk of flu-related heart attacks or other flu-related complications from existing health conditions like diabetes and chronic lung disease.

Vaccines lower your chance of spreading disease.

  • Some people in your family or community may not be able to get certain vaccines due to their age or health condition. They rely on you to help prevent the spread of disease.
  • Infants, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems (like those undergoing cancer treatment) are especially vulnerable to infectious disease. For example, newborn babies are too young to be vaccinated against whooping cough. Unfortunately, whooping cough can be very dangerous or even deadly for them. Pregnant women should get the Tdap vaccine during every pregnancy to help protect their babies from whooping cough. Anyone who is around babies should be up to date with their whooping cough vaccine.

Another reason to be vaccinated is that adults with multiple responsibilities and busy lives cannot afford to get sick. Vaccines can help you stay healthy, so you do not miss work and will give you more time for other pursuits.

Make an appointment with your healthcare provider today to have the best possible protection against a number of serious diseases. If you do not have a provider currently, please to go ADPH’s Adult Immunization Provider website, alabamapublichealth.gov/immunization/adult-immunization-providers.html, to locate someone locally who can determine if you need to be vaccinated. In addition, ADPH’s Immunization Division website contains a wealth of immunization resources for children and adults, including recommended vaccines for back to school and links to the recommended vaccines for 2019. Go to alabamapublichealth.gov/immunization for additional information.

Scott Harris, M.D.
State Health Officer

(August 2019)

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Page last updated: August 7, 2019