Yes, Adults Need Vaccines, Too — Here's Exactly When You Should Check In With Your Doctor
The importance of getting vaccinated has been a hot topic of conversation in recent years, largely due to widely circulated misinformation that has caused parents to opt out of vaccinating their children, putting entire communities at risk. But something that hasn't received nearly as much attention is the fact that, in some cases, it's equally important for adults to get vaccinated in order to keep themselves and those around them safe. Even if you think you're up to date on all your vaccines, talk to your doctor if any of these exceptions apply to you.
1. You're Traveling Internationally
Always make sure you're up to date with your routine vaccinations before you travel abroad. Depending on your destination, you may also need additional vaccines that can help protect you against illnesses in that part of the world. "If someone is going to travel to an area with unsafe drinking water or high rates of rabies or mosquitoes, vaccinations such as typhoid, yellow fever, rabies, and Japanese encephalitis may be required," Alexa M. Mieses, MD, MPH, a practicing family physician, told POPSUGAR.
Your doctor can tell you which vaccines are needed based on your itinerary, but because many vaccines require multiple doses that need to be given at least one month apart, Dr. Mieses recommends making an appointment as early as possible.
2. You're Thinking of Getting Pregnant
Dr. Mieses suggests talking with your doctor before you start trying to get pregnant. "Some vaccine-preventable diseases like measles, varicella, or rubella can be harmful to a pregnant woman or fatal for the pregnancy," she explained. To make matters worse, "some vaccines cannot be given once a woman becomes pregnant." Your physician can review your vaccination record and, if necessary, run blood tests to confirm your immunity to certain diseases such as rubella.
And, even if you're pregnant, you should get a flu shot every year, Dr. Mieses said.
3. You're Starting a New Job
If you've taken a new job that involves working with children, the elderly, or people with weaker immune systems, it's important to ensure you're up to date on all your routine vaccines. And yes, this includes an annual flu shot — even if catching the flu isn't a big deal for you, it is highly contagious and can be life-threatening for certain people. "Vaccines work best when everyone in the community who is medically able to get vaccinated does so," Dr. Mieses told POPSUGAR. "This helps protect those that cannot get certain vaccines for medical reasons, such as people undergoing chemo."
If your job requires you to work closely with high-risk individuals, Dr. Mieses recommends getting your immunity tested even if you've been vaccinated, as immunity can fade over time. For example, a fully vaccinated nurse in Seattle contracted measles while on the job this Summer. "Getting your immunity tested beforehand can determine whether you do indeed need to be revaccinated before starting work," she said.
4. There's a Chance You Were Bitten by a Wild Animal
In most cases, you'll be painfully aware of a bite and head straight to the doctor to get the medical care (and vaccines) you need. But it's possible to be bitten in your sleep and not even realize it. Amesh Adalja, MD, FIDSA, who specializes in infectious diseases, explained that if there's a bat in your home, it can touch or even bite you while you're sleeping, and these bites can be superficial and painless enough not to wake you. Due to the risk of contact, Dr. Adalja recommends going to your doctor to get a rabies vaccination just in case.