by Heidi Parker Executive
Director Immunize Nevada
Chances are, you want to pass on so much from your generation to the next: family traditions, your grandmother's hand-sewn quilt or dad's love of books, for example.
But you obviously have no interest in passing on a serious illness. Luckily, there's a simple way to take charge of your health and help protect those around you: by asking about vaccines at your next doctor's visit or trip to your local pharmacy.
We all know how important vaccines are for infants and children, but we tend to forget about protecting ourselves. Every year thousands of adults get sick because they didn't get vaccinated. Some end up in the hospital, and some die.
But keep in mind: Vaccines are available to help protect you and your family against many preventable diseases.
You've no doubt recently seen a flu or pneumococcal vaccine reminder on TV, the Internet or inside your local grocery store. You're seeing it everywhere because diseases like these are serious. This is not just a bad cold or headache. Flu and pneumonia can — and do — kill.
Do you spend time around friends or family who are older than 65? Maybe you have someone in your family with a weakened immune system? Or perhaps there's a new baby in the family, one who isn't yet old enough to get vaccinated.
All of these groups of people are at greater risk of complications from diseases like the flu. So when you get vaccinated, you're not only protecting yourself — but also your friend, your relative or maybe even an adorable grandbaby.
While many adults know about the importance of getting an annual flu vaccine, they may not be aware of other vaccines that could have life-saving benefits. A recent national CDC survey showed that most U.S. adults are not even aware that they need additional vaccines throughout their lives to protect against diseases like pertussis, hepatitis, shingles and pneumonia.
This means millions of adults aren't protecting our own health. And of course, because immune defenses become weaker with age, this reminder is especially important as we get older.
"Anybody who has an autoimmune or any other chronic disease needs to get vaccinated to protect themselves from foreign invaders," shares Nevada Diabetes Association Executive Director Sarah Gleich. "Infections can and do harm the body, particularly for people who are already at risk."
Obviously, vaccine-preventable diseases like shingles, pneumonia and whooping cough can make you very sick. But if you get sick, you may risk spreading the disease to others. That's a risk most of us do not want to take.
Just like with the flu, groups that are more vulnerable to infectious diseases — like infants, older adults and people with weakened immune systems, like those undergoing cancer treatment — are especially vulnerable. They are also more likely to have severe illness and complications if they do get sick. You can help protect your health and the health of your loved ones by getting your recommended vaccines.
According to the CDC, the specific vaccines you need as an adult are determined by factors such as your age, job, lifestyle, health conditions, locations of travel, and vaccines you've received in the past. Throughout your adult life, vaccines are recommended to get and maintain protection against:
Other vaccinations you may need include those that protect against human papillomavirus (which can cause certain cancers), meningococcal disease, hepatitis B, hepatitis A, chickenpox, measles, mumps and rubella.
If you're planning to travel outside of the U.S., check on any additional vaccines you may need. Some travel-related vaccines are part of a series or are needed months prior to your travel to be most effective, so be sure to plan ahead.
But remember: Everybody is different, so it's important for all adults to talk to their healthcare provider to find out their specific needs.
The good news is that getting vaccinated is easier than you think. Adults can get vaccines at doctors' offices, pharmacies, workplaces, health clinics and health departments. Visit www.immunizenevada.org/community/where-go to help find a vaccine provider near you. Most health insurance plans cover the cost of recommended vaccines — a call to your insurance provider can give you the details.
Who knew getting recommended vaccines could actually be a symbol of love? This simple act can protect you, your family and friends. It doesn't cost a lot — yet it's more valuable than Grandma's marble teacart that has been handed down for generations.