By Megan Brooks
If you have school-age kids, you’re most likely familiar with vaccinations. But, what about you? As uncommon as it might sound, vaccines are not just for kids. Vaccines are just as important for adults as they are for children. While most vaccines received during childhood are essential to protect against common childhood illnesses, other vaccines are important to protect against common adult illnesses such as pneumonia, influenza and shingles.
When asked about these necessary vaccinations for both children and adults alike, Michelle Long, FNP, with Mission Community Primary Care – Grassy Creek, said, “Vaccines are an injection, either by a shot or by mouth that contain a certain amount of a specific disease itself, causing the body to trigger our internal immune response to that injection. Once the body’s immune system has been exposed to this disease, the body then develops new cells that recognize this particular disease in the future and help to fight against it. These vaccinations are both necessary and important for the prevention of serious, or sometimes even deadly, illnesses.”
Some childhood vaccines may need to be repeated as an adult if the series was not completed as a child. These often include the MMR, varicella, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, meningococcal and Hib.
“Generally, once the series is completed, it provides lifetime immunity. Some vaccines, such as influenza, must be repeated at certain intervals,” said Long.
When a vaccine is given, the immune system begins to produce memory B cells that remain in the body for several years.
“If a person is exposed to the disease in the future, these cells will replicate and fight against the infection. However, it usually takes about 2-3 weeks for the body to begin to produce the antibodies (disease fighters) that protect against infection. The associated muscle soreness at the injection site most always is a positive indication that the antibodies are beginning to form in response to the vaccine,” said Long.
Vaccines don’t usually cause illness, however, they do have the ability to cause the specific disease being protected against. If this happens, the symptoms are usually much milder than if the illness had been contracted naturally. Most side effects from vaccines are mild including fever and redness, swelling and/or pain at the injection site. Serious side effects such as allergic reaction are rare.
“It is just as important for adults to get recommended vaccinations as it is for children in order to prevent serious illness and the spread of vaccine-preventable diseases,” said Long.
Michelle Long, FNP, is with Mission Community Primary Care – Grassy Creek, located inside the Mission Health Mauzy-Phillips Center at Blue Ridge Regional Hospital. (828) 766-3555