Which Immunizations Do I Need?

Dec 13, 2023
Which Immunizations Do I Need?
Vaccines prevent infection, stop the spread of disease, and can save lives. Immunization doesn’t stop after childhood — adults can stay healthier with the right vaccines, too. Here’s what you should know.

Immunization is achieved through vaccinations that help your immune system recognize and respond to dangerous infectious pathogens more quickly and effectively, so your body is less likely to be overwhelmed by their invading cells, making you less likely to get sick.  

Without a doubt, immunization prevents infection, stops the spread of disease, and can save lives.  

At Comprehensive Care Clinic in Spring, Texas, family medicine specialist Tyneza Mitchell, FNP, offers a full scope of preventive care services, including routine vaccinations for patients of all ages. That’s right: Immunization doesn’t stop after childhood — adults can stay healthier with the right vaccines, too. Here’s what you should know.   

How vaccines train your immune system 

Between 1900 and 1999, the average person in the United States saw their lifespan increase by more than three decades. Experts attribute 25 of these additional years of life to 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century. At the very top of the list? Immunizations. 

To understand how vaccines train your immune system to deliver a robust, targeted response against an invading pathogen, it helps to know what happens when infectious microorganisms like bacteria, viruses, fungi, or parasites enter your body. 

Pathogens have antigens 

All pathogens are made up of various subparts; a pathogen’s cell-attacking, disease-causing component is called an antigen. When your immune system registers the presence of a foreign antigen, it produces antigen-destroying immune cells called antibodies. 

Antibodies destroy antigens

Your immune system can produce thousands of different antibodies, and each one is trained to recognize and destroy one specific antigen. When your body has been exposed to an antigen more than once — such as the antigen that comes with the common cold — it’s able to fight it off faster and more effectively.  

Vaccines help build immunity

Vaccination fortifies your immune system by introducing it to weakened or inactivated (dead) antigens, or in some cases, to part of a pathogen’s genetic material (antigen blueprint), so it can learn how to produce the antibodies that will deactivate that specific pathogen.  

Your immune system is ready

Essentially, your immune system produces specific antigen-destroying antibodies in response to a vaccine. If it encounters the same antigens later in real life, it remembers how to produce the antibodies that can kill them so that the disease-causing cells can’t infect your entire body.  

 After vaccination, you’re much less likely to get sick from that specific pathogen — and if the pathogen’s antigens do cause illness, it’s far more likely to be mild and brief.   

Immunization is a lifelong preventive effort

Babies and children receive a variety of vaccines from infancy through adolescence. Some of these immunizations — such as the measles, mumps, and rubella series (MMR vaccine) — are very effective at providing lifelong protection, while others require periodic boosters to keep your immune system on guard as the years go by. 

Immune system training through vaccination is a lifelong disease-prevention strategy, and adults need immunizations for a variety of reasons. You might need one or more vaccines to:

  • Defend against seasonal pathogens (i.e., influenza)
  • Boost your immunity from a previous vaccine (i.e., tetanus)
  • Protect against diseases that only affect adults (i.e., shingles)
  • Prevent certain sexually transmitted infections (i.e., HPV)
  • Stay as healthy as possible while managing a chronic disease
  • Keep you and your baby healthy during and after pregnancy 
  • Prevent infection and stay healthy during international travel

As you can see, some immunizations are routine for virtually all adults, while other vaccines are only recommended in specific situations. Accordingly, there’s no single “vaccine schedule” that applies to every adult. 

Determining which vaccinations you need 

The vaccines you might need at any given time are determined by a range of factors, including time of year, your age, health status (including pregnancy), previous vaccination history, sexual activity, occupation, and travel plans. Let’s take a closer look: 

All adults 

Everyone should get a yearly flu shot and COVID-19 booster in the autumn. All adults also need a tetanus booster every 10 years (for life) after completing the initial childhood series. 

Aging adults

In addition to standard seasonal immunizations, annual RSV and pneumonia vaccines are recommended for adults aged 65 and older. The shingles vaccine is recommended for adults aged 50 to 64. The hepatitis B vaccine is recommended for older adults who haven’t been vaccinated against this liver-damaging infectious disease.

Younger adults

In addition to standard seasonal vaccines and the first tetanus booster, younger adults may need to get up to date with vaccines for HPV, hepatitis B, and meningococcal disease.  

During pregnancy

During the second or third trimester, pregnant women are advised to have the Tdap vaccine (tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis) to give their newborn some protection against whooping cough. Seasonal immunizations against the flu, COVID-19, and RSV are also recommended at the right time of year. 

International travelers

If you’re planning to visit another country, we can help you determine if your destination recommends or requires any vaccinations before you travel. 

Ready to get up to date on your vaccines?

Wondering which vaccines you need? Our team can take an in-depth look at your case to figure out which vaccines you may need to stay on top of your health. Give us a call today, or click online to schedule a visit at Comprehensive Care Clinic in Spring, Texas, any time.