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Adult Immunizations: Are You Protected?

The flu vaccine, tetanus boosters, hepatitis shots -- why adults still need vaccinations.
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Why Do Adults Need Vaccinations? continued...

However, that immunity doesn't necessarily last forever. Those antibodies may fade away with time.

"After age 30 or so, the potency of immunity wanes," Wasserman says. "In the same way that your muscle strength fades after middle age, the vaccine immunity that protected you when you were young loses its strength when you're in your 40s, and 50s, and 60s."

Happily, the solution is simple: get a booster shot. This is a way of reminding your immune system how to fight the microbe.

In addition to boosters, you need other vaccines as you get older and your risk of getting certain diseases increases.

Vaccinations Benefit Others

Obviously, getting a vaccination protects you from getting sick, but vaccines have a greater benefit: they protect the people around you from getting sick.

It's a phenomenon called "herd immunity." If most people in a group are vaccinated against a disease, even the people who aren't vaccinated are much less likely to get it.

This reason for vaccination is important, because vaccines can be dangerous for some people. For instance, some are too sick to handle a vaccine or are allergic to it, but if the people around them are vaccinated, they are more likely to be safe. "It's an indirect way of protecting them," says Wasserman.

There's also a flip side. If you live with someone with a compromised immune system from a disease or its treatment -- like chemotherapy -- tell your doctor before you get vaccinated. The weakened version of a virus in a vaccine could spread from the vaccinated person to the ill family member. Sometimes, even the weakened virus is dangerous for a person with a compromised immune system.

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