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April 24, 2017

The Vaccines You Need Now

by Lisa Davis

Every year, millions of adults make a simple mistake that puts them at increased risk of illness, severe pain or even death. The unforced error: skipping a recommended vaccine. “Most people know that childhood vaccines are one of the greatest public health successes of recent years, but adult immunizations just don’t get the respect they deserve,” says Kristofer Smith, MD, chief medical officer for CareConnect. “Getting the right vaccine at the right time is truly one of the best things you can do for your health.”

Still need some convincing? In honor of World Immunization Week (which runs April 24 through 30), here are three reasons to make sure you’re up to date on all your shots.

A vaccine can save your life.

Did you know that you could wind up seriously ill from something as simple as the flu? In fact, on a bad year more than 700,000 people are hospitalized because of problems related to influenza, and over 50,000 don’t recover – that’s why doctors try to make sure everyone six months of age and older gets a flu vaccine every year. A number of other immunizations also have the power to save your life, Dr. Smith says, including the pneumococcal pneumonia vaccine for people 65 and older (and younger people who have certain health conditions) and the vaccine against human papillomavirus, or HPV, which is given to teens and young adults. The HPV vaccine provides strong protection against cervical cancer, which is fatal for about 4,000 women each year.

A vaccine can prevent a world of pain.

If you had chickenpox as a child, you’re at risk of shingles, a viral infection that causes a painful -- sometimes agonizing -- rash. While the blisters and scabs of shingles typically clear up in a matter of weeks, in some people the severe pain lasts for years or decades. Fortunately, a single shot of the shingles vaccine can halve your risk of developing shingles, and slash the likelihood of the long-lasting pain condition by two-thirds.

A vaccine can protect your loved ones.

There are some diseases that might barely slow you down but present a major risk if you pass them on to a baby, elderly parent, or friend with a compromised immune system. For instance, whooping cough (also known as pertussis) is particularly dangerous for newborns, but infants are too young to get the vaccine. In that case, getting immunized yourself is a kind of medical baby-proofing – one of the most effective tools at your disposal to make the world a little safer for the baby.