Vaccines: the best shot for good health at all ages and stages

Vaccines have made many serious and deadly diseases rare today. Diseases like polio, whooping cough, mumps, measles and many others are now preventable. Most young parents have not seen the devastating effects infectious diseases can have on families and communities. It’s easy to think these diseases are in the past. But, outbreaks are happening even here in Oregon with diseases like whooping cough because children are not getting vaccinated.

Regardless of age, we all need vaccines to help keep us healthy. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends getting vaccines throughout our lives. Vaccines should start at birth and continue through early childhood. Teens also need certain vaccines, including boosters, since protection from some childhood vaccines can wear off and other vaccines work better when given at an older age. Adults, too, need vaccines, including a yearly flu shot and a shingles shot for those age 50 and older.

Vaccines enable a lifetime of well-being and help prevent the spread of serious diseases. Talk to your doctor about what vaccines you or your children may need. School is starting up soon in the fall so now is a good time to schedule a well child checkup and get your kids up to date on their vaccines, if needed.

Are vaccines safe?

Vaccines are tested for years before being recommended for use. All safety concerns must be addressed before the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) licenses a vaccine. Once a vaccine is licensed and recommended for use, the FDA, CDC, and other federal agencies continue to monitor its safety. Any side effects from vaccines are usually mild and temporary. Talk to your family doctor if you have questions or concerns.

Vaccines for children

Vaccines give parents the power to protect their children from serious infectious diseases. Infants and children are at increased risk because their immune systems have not yet developed. Vaccines help develop immunity (protection) against diseases before they come into contact with them. Not having your infant or child vaccinated may put them at risk for getting serious diseases. Your doctor can guide you in what vaccines your child needs and when they need them.

Vaccines for pre-teens and teenagers

Vaccines are not just for infants and toddlers. Some childhood vaccines tend to wear off and require booster shoots to “boost’ the immune system. This includes getting a Tdap booster to prevent tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (whooping cough), or Td booster covering tetanus and diphtheria, at the age of 11 or 12. A meningococcal conjugate vaccine, which prevents diseases such as meningitis, is also recommended for 11 to 12-year-olds with a booster shoot at 16 years old for added protection when the risk of infection is the highest. It is also recommended that preteen boys and girls also receive the HPV vaccine to prevent cancer caused by the human papillomavirus.

Vaccines for adults

The need for vaccinations does not end in childhood. All adults should get an influenza vaccine each year to protect against seasonal flu. Adults may also need other vaccines (such as hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and HPV), depending on their age, health conditions, job, lifestyle, or travel habits. Every adult should get one dose of Tdap vaccine (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis) if they did not get one as a teen, and then receive a Td (tetanus and diphtheria) booster every 10 years. Adults 50 years and older are recommended to receive the shingles vaccine.

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