Vaccines aren’t just for kids. Thousands of adults go to the hospital each year for a serious (sometimes even deadly) disease they might have avoided if they had received the vaccination to prevent it. Universal immunization of infants and children, which began in the 1940s, has reduced the incidence of previously common and potentially fatal infectious diseases, including polio and smallpox.
But there are people who didn’t receive all the recommended vaccines—or they aren’t able to verify that they had them. As adults, they also may need special vaccinations if their job or lifestyle could expose them to particular diseases, or if they are traveling to a country that still has cases of a disease that is uncommon in the United States.
“Vaccines prevent you from getting sick, missing work, and spreading illness to family and friends, some of whom may be at risk of getting more severe disease,” says Marjorie Golden, MD, a Yale Medicine infectious diseases specialist. “Vaccines not only can prevent certain types of infection, like pneumonia or the flu, but also can prevent some kinds of cancer (like cervical cancer). Getting vaccinated has public health benefits as well—the more people in a community who are vaccinated, the harder it becomes for an infection to spread.”