Immunizations: Not Just for Kids

Although immunizations have significantly reduced the incidence of many serious infectious diseases, vaccination rates for some are not meeting national public health goals. We need to constantly remind people that immunizations aren't just for children and that they are needed throughout one's lifetime.

Pregnant Women

Vaccines are an important component of a healthy pregnancy. Women should be up to date on their vaccines before becoming pregnant and should receive vaccines against both the flu and whooping cough (pertussis) during pregnancy. These vaccines not only protect the mother by preventing illnesses and complications but also pass on vaccine protection to her unborn child.

Women who are planning to become pregnant may need to receive some vaccines before the start of pregnancy. These vaccines may need to be administered a number of weeks before a woman becomes pregnant so that she is adequately protected. Some vaccine-preventable diseases, such as rubella, can lead to significant complications, including birth defects.

Pregnancy is a good opportunity to start learning about the safe, proven disease protection that vaccines will provide to their babies once they are born. Pregnant women should also plan on receiving the flu and whooping cough vaccines during each pregnancy. Pregnant women are at an increased risk for complications from the flu. The flu shot helps to protect a pregnant woman and her unborn child from the flu as well as lessen her symptoms if she does contract it. A flu shot also allows the mother to pass antibodies on to her newborn for some early flu protection. By getting a whooping cough vaccine in the third trimester, the mother also develops antibodies and passes them on to her baby so that her baby is born with protection against whooping cough.

Birth to Age 6

Vaccines give parents the safe, proven power to protect their children from serious diseases. Parents can provide the best protection by following the recommended immunization schedule - giving their children the vaccines they need when they need them.

Babies receive vaccinations that help protect them from 14 diseases by age 2. It is very important that babies receive all doses of each vaccine, as well as receive each vaccination on time. After age 2, children are still recommended to receive a yearly flu vaccine and will be due for additional vaccine doses between 4 and 6 years of age. Getting all of the recommended vaccines is one of the most important things parents can do to protect their children's health. If a child falls behind the recommended immunization schedule, vaccines can still be given to "catch up" the child before adolescence.

When children are not vaccinated, they are at increased risk for disease and can spread disease to others in their play groups, child care centers, classrooms, and communities - including babies who are too young to be fully vaccinated, and people with weakened immune systems due to cancer and other health conditions. Childcare settings and schools are highly susceptible to outbreaks of infectious diseases because students can easily spread illnesses to one another as a result of poor hand washing, uncovered coughs, and dense populations.

Preteens & Teens

Parents can do a number of things to ensure a healthy future for their children.

One of the most important actions parents can take is to make sure their children are up to date on their vaccines. Following the recommended immunization schedule provides the best protection from serious, and sometimes deadly, diseases.

Preteens and teens need Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis) vaccine, quadrivalent meningococcal conjugate vaccine, and HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccine to protect against serious diseases. A yearly flu vaccine is also recommended for all children 6 months and older.

Preteens and teens need vaccines because they are at greater risk for certain diseases like meningitis, septicemia (blood infection), and cancers caused by HPV infection. By making sure vaccines are up to date, parents can send their preteens and teens to middle school and high school - and also off to college - with protection from vaccine-preventable diseases.

Being vaccinated not only helps protect adolescents from getting certain diseases like the flu and whooping cough (pertussis), but it also helps stop the spread of these diseases to others in their families, classroom, and community. This is especially important to help protect babies too young to be fully vaccinated, people aged 65 and older, and people with weakened immune systems due to cancer, heart disease, or other health conditions.


All adults should get vaccines to protect their health. Even healthy adults can become seriously ill and can pass certain illnesses on to others. Immunization is especially important for older adults and for adults with chronic conditions such as asthma, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), diabetes, or heart disease. Immunization is also important for anyone who is in close contact with the very young, the very old, people with weakened immune systems, and those who cannot be vaccinated.

All adults should get an influenza (flu) vaccine each year to protect against seasonal flu. Every adult should also get the Td or Tdap vaccine once if they did not receive it as an adolescent to protect against pertussis (whooping cough), and then a Td (tetanus, diphtheria) booster shot every 10 years. In addition, women are also recommended to get the Tdap vaccine each time they are pregnant, preferably at 27 through 36 weeks.

Adults may need other vaccines - such as shingles, pneumococcal, hepatitis, and HPV - depending on one's age, occupation, travel, health status, vaccination history, and other risk factors.

Pre-school to College Age

Getting all of the recommended vaccines is one of the most important things a parent can do to protect their child's health, especially when they are in a setting like a school or a childcare center where disease outbreaks can occur. Whether it's a baby starting at a new childcare facility, a toddler heading to preschool, a student going back to elementary, middle, or high school - or even a college freshman - parents should check their child's vaccine records.

When parents are preparing to send their child off to daycare, school, or college, it's the perfect time to check if he or she is up to date on recommended vaccines.

Childcare facilities, preschool programs, schools, and colleges are highly susceptible to outbreaks of infectious diseases. Children can easily transmit illnesses to one another due to poor hand washing, uncovered coughs, dense populations, and other factors. When children aren't vaccinated, they are at increased risk for disease and can spread disease to others in their classrooms and communities. This includes babies too young to be fully vaccinated and people with weakened immune systems due to cancer or other health conditions.

Different states may require children who are entering childcare or school to be vaccinated against certain diseases. Colleges and universities may have their own requirements, especially for students living in a dormitory. Now is the time for parents to check with their child's doctor, school, or the local health department to learn about the state requirements.

For questions, consultation, or appointments, please call the Public Health Nurse at 201-568-3450, Option 4.