In the simplest terms, a vaccine gives us an immunity against whatever disease it is designed to protect us from. When you get a vaccine, it sparks an immune response in your body, which helps it fight off and remember the germ so it can attack it if it ever invades again.1 Vaccines are made from very small amounts of weak or dead germs, so they won’t make you sick—but they will often provide long-lasing immunity to serious diseases that can make you incredibly ill.2
As an added bonus, when you get vaccinated, you’re also protecting those around you who are unable to be vaccinated due to weak or failing immune systems, like people with cancer. When you stay healthy, they have a much better chance of staying healthy too.
Most of us receive vaccinations as children—but are they still effective? Do we need boosters? Are we still protected against the diseases we think we are? As it turns out, according to Immunize Canada3, childhood immunization does not provide lifelong immunity against some diseases like tetanus (lockjaw) and diphtheria.
Ask your doctor to check your records to determine what immunizations you were given and when, and to find out which ones you need to update. Immunize Canada recommends the following immunization schedule, but your doctor will be able to help you determine if and when you should be vaccinated4:
- Tetanus: everyone, every 10 years
- Diphtheria: everyone, every 10 years
- Pertussis: everyone, once in adulthood and during each pregnancy
- Influenza: everyone, annually, particularly those over 65, anyone at high risk, and those who are at risk of spreading the disease to others
- Hepatitis B: people with medical, occupational or lifestyle risks
- Hepatitis A: people with medical, occupational or lifestyle risks
- Meningococcal: people with high-risk conditions and people living in communal residences, including military personnel
- Measles: people who were born after 1970 and who did not receive the vaccine or get the disease
- Mumps: people who have not had the vaccine or the disease
- Varicella: people who have not had the vaccine or the disease
- HPV: females and males age 9-26 years of age
- Herpes zoster: People over 50 years of age and older, including people who have had a previous episode of shingles
- Travel vaccines: varies by destination—consult a health clinic, your health care provider or your local public health office
It’s a good idea to keep a record of your vaccinations so you always know what immunizations you’ve had and when. That way you’ll be able to be proactive about getting your boosters when they’re recommended by your doctor.