Skip to content

    Vaccines Health Center

    Font Size
    A
    A
    A

    Adult Immunizations: Are You Protected?

    The flu vaccine, tetanus boosters, hepatitis shots -- why adults still need vaccinations.
    By
    WebMD Feature
    Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

    What's the greatest medical development of the last century? Open-heart surgery? The discovery of penicillin? Laser hair removal?

    According to experts, the answer is clear: vaccinations.

    Recommended Related to Adult Vaccines

    Stay Protected: Get a Tetanus Booster

    Working on handyman projects this summer? You might be due for a tetanus booster; critical protection if you get a cut or wound. Men under age 59 are three times more likely than women to get tetanus (a potentially fatal disease) because they have not had booster shots. August is National Immunization Awareness month -- a good time to ask your doctor about vaccine boosters you might need. These vaccine shots are advised for adults: Tetanus. The Td vaccine (tetanus and diphtheria) needs to be...

    Read the Stay Protected: Get a Tetanus Booster article > >

    "Immunizations are the greatest medical advance of the last one hundred years," says Richard L. Wasserman, MD, PhD, clinical professor in the department of pediatrics at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in Dallas.

    "There's no question that immunizations have done more good for more people than any other medical intervention," agrees Ricardo U. Sorenson, MD, chair of the department of pediatrics, Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center in New Orleans.

    Vaccinations have essentially wiped out diseases that once infected hundreds of thousands of people every year and killed tens of thousands. Yet many of us take immunizations for granted and may assume that, once we're adults, we don't need them anymore.

    We do. While we may outgrow our need for booster chairs, we never outgrow our need for booster shots. So if you suspect you're not up-to-date with your vaccinations, it's time for a checkup.

    Why Get Immunized?

    Vaccines don't get the credit they deserve -- a testament to their success. Vaccines have so effectively wiped out many diseases that these illnesses seem as extinct as dinosaurs.

    "How many people do you know who have had diphtheria or tetanus?" asks Wasserman. "Probably none. That's how well vaccines work."

    Sorenson agrees that, nowadays, we have a casual attitude toward the diseases that terrified our grandparents. "People tend to forget how serious diseases like measles, mumps, rubella, and whooping cough were because they haven't experienced them," he tells WebMD.

    But what's risky about our casual attitude is that these diseases are not extinct. In some parts of the world, they're common. If people stopped getting vaccinated in the U.S., they would become common here.

    "I've seen the results of not getting vaccinated," says Wasserman. "I've seen children sick with vaccine-preventable diseases, like whooping cough and polio. It's tragic."

    Why Do Adults Need Vaccinations?

    Many vaccines work by introducing a dead or weakened version of a germ into your body, allowing your body to become familiar with it. Your immune system then reacts by creating antibody proteins custom-designed to fight that particular microbe. Then, if you ever come into contact with the real germ, the antibodies attack it. This is how vaccines grant you immunity.

    1 | 2 | 3 | 4

    Today on WebMD

    passport, pills and vaccine
    25 ways to protect yourself from illness.
    syringes and graph illustration
    Create a personalized schedule.
     
    flu shot signage
    Get answers to your questions
    gloved hand holding syringe
    Which ones do you need?
     
    woman walking
    Article
    Vaccine Schedule Are Your Childs Shots Up To Date
    Article
     
    69x75 thumbnail early pregnancy 02
    VIDEO
    gloved hand holding syringe
    Article
     
    adult vaccine injection
    ARTICLE
    woman peeking under sheets
    Tool
     
    cold season and vitamin C
    VIDEO
    Adult Meningitis Vaccines What You Should Know
    ARTICLE