As a parent, you've probably read up on the vaccines that your child needs, keeping a careful record to make sure that your child is up-to-date on all of his shots. But when was the last time you considered your own immunization status? Every year, 40,000 to 50,000 people in this country die from diseases that might have been prevented by vaccines. Still, millions of American adults go without routine and recommended vaccinations. A recent report from The Trust For America's Health, a health advocacy organization, reveals some surprising stats:
• Only about one-third of adults are vaccinated against the seasonal flu
• Only about 10 percent of eligible adult women have had the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine
• Only 2 percent of adults have had recommended tetanus/diphtheria/whooping cough vaccine
So why aren't more adults properly vaccinated? Many think vaccines are a kid thing and assume the shots they got way back when will protect them for life. But some adults may not have completed the recommended schedule of vaccines as children; others may not have had access to some of the newer vaccines when they were growing up. Even for adults who got every shot they needed before they were 18, immunity can fade over time.
"Ideally, your doctor should review your vaccine status with you at every check-up, but sometimes vaccines aren't at the forefront of those visits," says Lance Rodewald, M.D., director of the immunization services division at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. "If your doctor doesn't bring it up, ask if you need any vaccines at this visit. If you're contemplating becoming pregnant, ask if there are any vaccines you should get before you conceive."
Not sure which shots you got as a kid, and which ones you didn't? You'll need to dig up or track down your old medical records. If you can't, blood tests can check for immunity from some diseases, or you can talk to your doctor about being re-vaccinated, which won't harm you.