Let’s be honest. As young adults prepare to enter college, immunizations are not generally the first thing that comes to mind. They are young and healthy, fresh out of high school, and excited for a new adventure. Often times, they feel invincible – like they could take over the world. (Oh, to be young again!) Many young adults do not feel that vaccinations are something that applies to them.
In reality, the need for vaccination does not end when your childhood does. Vaccines are recommended throughout an adult’s life based on age, lifestyle, job, travel, health conditions and vaccines you received as a child. Even healthy young adults can contract (and get very sick from) vaccine-preventable diseases. Too few young adults are receiving the recommended vaccines, leaving themselves and their loved ones vulnerable to serious diseases.
Thanks to social media, and our culture’s current obsession with “selfies,” it’s easy to see why this generation of young adults thinks: “it’s all about me.” When it comes to vaccinations, the complete opposite is actually true. It’s NOT all about you.
Think about it. Young adults might not be the most at-risk for severe disease themselves, but they are likely to be in contact with those who are, such as:
- Aging parents or grandparents
- Very young nieces/nephews/cousins
- Pregnant friends or relatives
Not to mention, this age group is likely to be in crowded living conditions (like college dorms) or come into contact with massive amounts of people every day on mass transit, in offices or in stuffy lecture halls.
Everyone older than 6 months should get the flu vaccine every year. Yet only about 1 in 3 adults under the age of 50 do. This matters because even if they don’t feel sick themselves, young adults are prime candidates for transporting disease to other people.
So what vaccines might a young adult need?
- One dose of Tdap is recommended if you have never received it after age 18.
- After receiving that first dose of Tdap vaccine, a Td vaccine is recommended once every 10 years.
- Three doses of HPV vaccine protect against the most common types of human papilloma virus known to cause cancer later in life. The vaccine is recommended for 11-12 year olds, but if young adults never received it, they have until they’re 26 to get the vaccine.
- Some states require students entering colleges and universities to be vaccinated against certain diseases like meningococcal disease. This is due to the slightly increased risk of contracting these diseases in close quarters like residence halls.
And of course, last but not least, the flu vaccine.
When my daughter came home from the hospital in the midst of flu season, I remember being so scared to come into contact with someone who had not gotten their flu shot, because her immune system was so weak. As a healthy adult, it is your responsibility to remain up-to-date on your adult vaccinations, to protect others who cannot protect themselves.
Remember, it’s not just about you! The vulnerable populations in our communities depend on you to keep them healthy too.