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The Importance of Immunizations (Vaccines) for Adults

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Oct 31, 2022.

Why is immunization important?

Immunization helps you become immune (protected) from diseases caused by bacteria or viruses and helps protect others around you. Adults who have a mild form of the disease can pass it to children. The disease may be more serious in children. Without immunization, the only way to become immune is to get the disease. This is dangerous because you can develop medical problems from the disease that may be long-term or difficult to treat. Immunization helps control diseases and prevents them from coming back after they are controlled.

How is immunization done?

Inactivated (killed) or weakened (live) forms of the virus or bacteria may be used. Pieces of protein from a virus may be used to teach your immune system to recognize the virus. Vaccines are usually given as shots or nasal sprays. The vaccine will cause your body to produce antibodies. Antibodies are part of your immune system. Your immune system will recognize the virus or bacteria if you are exposed again. The system will produce the same antibodies to prevent the disease.

Which diseases can be prevented by vaccines?

  • Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)
  • Diphtheria
  • Hepatitis A and hepatitis B
  • Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) and influenza (flu)
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV)
  • Measles and mumps
  • Meningococcus
  • Pertussis (whooping cough)
  • Pneumococcal disease, such as pneumonia
  • Polio
  • Rotavirus
  • Rubella
  • Tetanus
  • Tuberculosis (TB)
  • Varicella (chickenpox) and shingles

What do I need to know about immunization?

  • You will get a Vaccine Information Statement (VIS) for each vaccine you receive. The VIS will explain what the vaccine is for and its risks and benefits. You may be able to read the VIS before you receive the vaccine. The VIS may be printed or delivered electronically to you.
  • Some vaccines are given on a recommended schedule. You may need some vaccines every 5 years, or every 10 years. Some vaccines are needed each year to protect you from new forms of a virus, such as the flu. Some vaccines stop protecting you over time. You may need to have boosters for some vaccines.
  • Some vaccines are only given for certain situations. You may need rabies vaccines if you are bitten by an animal that can carry rabies. You may need certain vaccines if you are traveling to another country. Tell your healthcare provider as far as possible before you travel. The vaccines may take several weeks to become effective.
  • Keep a record of the vaccines you receive. Your healthcare provider may also keep electronic records. Records will help you make sure you receive all the vaccines you need, and at the right times. You may need the records to be able to enroll in college or to start working at certain jobs. Bring the record with you to each immunization visit.

Treatment options

The following list of medications are in some way related to or used in the treatment of this condition.

What are the risks of immunization?

Vaccines may cause severe allergic reactions in some people. Tell your healthcare provider about all of your allergies. Tell him or her if you have a weakened immune system. If your immune system is weakened, you may not be able to get live vaccines. Rarely, vaccines may cause serious injury or death.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.