One of the biggest misconceptions I see in my pharmacy is the idea that vaccinations are just for kids. From the moment a baby is born, there is a clear schedule for parents to follow to keep them up-to-date on potentially life-saving immunizations.
While many parents prioritize their kids' health, a recent survey found that "while most adults believed they had received all vaccines required for someone their age, less than 10 per cent were actually up-to-date on their immunizations."
As adults, it's important we keep up with our own vaccines. Sticking to a regular immunization schedule is one of the best things that can be done for your long-term health. Some vaccines are routinely recommended for adults, others are recommended based on lifestyle, health, travel plans and vaccines received in the past.
As we get older, the risk for certain diseases increases, and Health Canada suggests a number of vaccines for adults. At a minimum, adults should consider the following immunizations.
Hepatitis A and B
These infections can cause the liver to become inflamed and injured. It's also important to know that one shot is not enough. Vaccination against hepatitis A and hepatitis B requires two to three injections, over the course of a year, to be fully protected.
This is caused by the same virus as chickenpox — dormant in almost all adults who had chickenpox in childhood — and can reactivate later in life. It most often affects those over 50, and appears as a painful rash with blisters, usually in the shape of a band on the side of the face or body. Up to one in three people will get shingles,and vaccination is the best way to protect yourself.
HPV (human papillomavirus)
One of the most common sexually transmitted diseases, it's estimated that more than 70 per cent of sexually active Canadians will have an HPV infection in their lifetime. The infection causes almost all cervical cancers and genital warts, as well as cancer in other parts of the body. What many people don't know is that even if you've had a previous HPV infection, getting vaccinated can still protect you against other strains.
It's caused by bacteria, and when it infects the lungs it can cause complications such as pneumonia, blood infections and meningitis. Vaccination strengthens the immune system so you're less likely to become infected, and if you get infected it will be less severe.
Where to get the shots done
What many people don't realize is that pharmacists can provide convenient access to vaccines for adults. In fact, in most other provinces, except Quebec, pharmacists can administer vaccinations following a physician prescription. Pharmacists in Alberta, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island can also prescribe adult vaccines.
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Vaccines can help you stay healthy. When you get vaccinated you are not only protecting yourself, you're helping protect others by making it less likely you will acquire and spread a disease.
Your local pharmacist can offer advice and information on adult immunization options.
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