Being aware of vaccine recommendations and proactive about immunizations gives you peace of mind and the best possible protection against serious illnesses. People have a lot of valid questions about vaccines. Here are some answers.
How vaccines work
Vaccination (or immunization) is the process of injecting weakened viruses, bacteria or virus particles into your body to create an immune response. Your body’s immune system notices these viruses or particles and produces antibodies. This immune response results in immunization, which means these antibodies are ready to recognize, fight off and protect you from that particular virus or bacteria if you come into contact with it in the future.
Vaccines are usually injected by a needle into the upper arm muscle, but some can also be taken by mouth or sprayed into the nose.
Someone is considered “immune” (or has immunity) when their body has the appropriate antibodies and immune system function to prevent a virus or bacteria from infecting their body.
This means that if you have immunity against a disease, you can be exposed to the virus or bacteria without becoming infected.
It’s very important to talk to your doctor or healthcare provider about which vaccines are recommended for you. To get personalized info, chat real-time with a registered nurse right in League.
Why should you get vaccinated?
Vaccines save lives. Every year, thousands of people become seriously ill, hospitalized and even die from diseases that could have been prevented through vaccination. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us how vulnerable we still are to new viruses and the power of vaccines to protect us.
More people getting vaccinated means fewer people getting sick. Infectious diseases that once commonly killed or harmed infants, children and adults have been greatly reduced (or even eliminated) as a result of vaccines.
The benefits of vaccines and immunization go beyond your own personal health and safety. When you are immunized, you help prevent or reduce the spread of disease to those you live with and in your greater community who might not be able to get certain vaccines because of their age or specific health conditions.
Vaccines are (very) safe
Approved vaccines have been carefully studied and monitored to make sure they’re safe. Licensed vaccines must complete rigorous testing and multiple trials before receiving approval for general use. Vaccines are closely monitored for safety by the World Health Organization (WHO), national regulatory agencies and vaccine manufacturers during development and after vaccines have been registered and put into wide use.
While some vaccines have side effects, these are most commonly mild symptoms that go away within a few days. Overall, the benefits far outweigh the risks.
Just like trying a new food or taking a new medication, vaccines can sometimes produce an allergic reaction. It’s important to discuss with your healthcare provider if you’ve had allergic reactions to medications or vaccines in the past.
Recently, there have been misconceptions linking autism to the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccines. Numerous, careful studies have since proven that vaccines and vaccine ingredients do not cause autism and that the MMR vaccine is a very effective way to protect children and adults from major health complications from these viruses.
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Vaccinations for adults
There are a number of vaccines that can keep you healthy as an adult and protect you from infections in the future. Some of these vaccines are “boosters” for vaccinations you might have received as a child since these childhood vaccines can become less effective over time.
Though vaccine recommendations will vary based on your age, overall health status, risk factors, and lifestyle, these common vaccines might be recommended to you:
- Hepatitis A and B
- Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)
- Influenza (flu)
Vaccinations each flu season
The seasonal flu is serious. Every year across the globe, millions of people get the flu, hundreds of thousands are hospitalized, and thousands die.
The flu vaccine offers life-saving protection, especially for those with chronic conditions, pregnant people, children, and older adults. Getting the flu vaccine each year not only reduces your personal risk of hospitalization and severe illness but also helps protect your family, friends and community.
The flu vaccine is recommended annually because immunity declines over time and various flu types circulate at different times. Each year’s flu vaccine is formulated to best protect against the types that will be most common that specific year.
It takes up to two weeks for the body to build up immunity against the flu. If you live in the Northern hemisphere, getting vaccinated by the end of October each year will give you the most protection for the cold and flu season ahead.
Vaccinations for pregnant and breastfeeding people
The flu vaccine and tetanus-diphtheria-pertussis (“Tdap”) vaccines are especially important for people who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
The Tdap vaccine protects against tetanus and diphtheria, but more importantly protects your infant against pertussis or “whooping cough,” which can be a significant, life-threatening illness for a newborn. By getting the vaccine during pregnancy (usually between 27 and 36 weeks) protective antibodies will be passed along to the baby and give them protection in their first few months before they’re able to get fully immunized.
The flu shot is also recommended during pregnancy, as changes in the body’s immune system, heart and lungs increase the risk of serious illness from the flu. This can also put the developing baby at risk and sometimes result in premature labor and delivery.
Importantly, if a pregnant person gets the flu vaccine while they’re breastfeeding, the breastfed baby also receives some temporary protection from the flu through the antibodies in breastmilk. But breastmilk is not a substitute for vaccination as it doesn’t protect against all diseases prevented by vaccines.
Vaccinations for travelers
Remember traveling? As some global COVID-19 travel restrictions begin to ease up (thanks vaccines!) we can start to think about adventures outside of our home countries again.
COVID-19 aside, there are different preventable diseases that are more common in various areas of the world. Talk to your healthcare provider if you’re planning on traveling as you might need several weeks or even months to get all the required doses of a vaccine to make sure that you’re fully protected against these global diseases:
- Hepatitis A and B
- Japanese encephalitis
- Yellow fever