Every year, thousands of people in the US develop illnesses that are preventable with vaccines, in some cases resulting in serious health complications or hospitalization. In honor of National Immunization Awareness Month this August, take a moment to learn more about the importance of vaccination and make sure you are up to date with recommended vaccines.
The importance of vaccination
Vaccines, which were first developed in 1796 for smallpox, provide the best defense against many diseases. They are one of the safest ways to protect your health, as side effects are typically mild and resolve themselves without treatment.
Building on your immune system’s natural function, vaccines lower the risk of getting certain diseases or developing serious complications. And in lowering your chance of spreading these diseases, they also help you keep your loved ones safe.
Immunization remains important throughout your whole life, even if you received routine vaccines as a child. Not only does the protection of some vaccines weaken over time, you may develop new risks for illnesses based on age, occupation, travel, or changes to your overall health.
Vaccines and chronic illnesses
Many chronic conditions — including type 1 and type 2 diabetes, heart disease, COPD, and asthma — increase your risk of developing serious complications from vaccine-preventable diseases. For this reason, vaccines are a critical part of managing these conditions, even if you are also taking medication to control symptoms. Here’s more on the importance of immunization when living with a chronic illness.
Diabetes can make it more difficult for your immune system to fight infection and illness, putting individuals with the condition at a greater risk for complications of the flu, pneumonia, meningitis, and other vaccine-preventable diseases. Additionally, some of these illnesses can interfere with diabetes management — for example, the flu can drastically increase blood sugar levels.
Like diabetes, heart disease makes it more difficult for your immune system to protect you from illness, leading to a greater risk for complications. The flu can also increase a person’s risk for heart attack and stroke.
COPD and asthma
COPD and asthma can increase swelling of the airways and lungs. When individuals with these conditions get vaccine-preventable diseases that similarly impact respiratory function, they are more likely to experience complications. Adults with these respiratory conditions also face a greater risk for flu-related complications.
Vaccine recommendations for adults
Not sure which vaccines you need? We have helpful information about the CDC’s recommended vaccination schedules below, but be sure to confirm with your provider as well!
The CDC recommends that all adults stay up to date on the following vaccines:
Covid-19 vaccine - currently, everyone ages six years and older needs one dose of the updated Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna covid-19 vaccine to be up to date. Adults ages 65 and older are eligible to get a second dose of these vaccines.
Flu vaccine - recommended once every year for all infants, children, and adults over the age of six months
Tdap or Td vaccines
Additional recommendations for specific age ranges include:
19-26 years old: Make sure you’re also up to date on the chickenpox, hepatitis B, HPV, and MMR vaccines. Ask your provider if additional vaccines are recommended, including the MenB vaccine.
27-49 years old: Make sure you’re also up to date on the hepatitis B and MMR vaccines. Ask your provider if additional vaccines are recommended, including the chickenpox and HPV vaccines if you haven’t already received them.
50-64 years old: Make sure you’re also up to date on the shingles vaccine. Ask your provider if additional vaccines are recommended, including the hepatitis B and MMR vaccines if you haven’t already received them.
65 years and older: Make sure you’re also up to date on the pneumococcal and shingles vaccines.
Vaccines and pregnancy
Getting the Tdap vaccine during pregnancy gives your baby short-term protection against whooping cough, which can be life-threatening for newborns. Additional vaccines may be recommended before, during, and after pregnancy. Learn more about vaccines and pregnancy here.
Vaccines and travel
Some international travel may require additional vaccines, depending on your itinerary and vaccination history. You can find more information about travel vaccines here.
Where to find vaccines
Most recommended vaccines are offered at doctor’s offices, and your provider is a great place to start. Ask if they offer the vaccines you need. If not, they can give you a referral.
Pharmacies and community health clinics are other common vaccination locations. Some people are even able to get certain vaccines at their workplace.
If you have health insurance, another option is to ask your insurance provider for a list of vaccine providers in your network.
The Vaccines for Children program offers free vaccines to children and adolescents 18 and under who meet any of the following criteria:
Are Native American
Qualify for Medicaid
Do not have health insurance or coverage of recommended vaccines
Choose a reliable and flexible pharmacy partner
Alto Pharmacy makes it simple to live your healthiest life by providing an easier, more supportive, and more affordable prescription experience. Our pharmacists are here with information and answers, even during nights and weekends. And the Alto app gives you control and convenience in managing your medications, with auto refills, medication bundling, and custom dosing reminders.
This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.