Vaccine: A product that stimulates a person’s immune system to produce immunity to a specific disease, protecting the person from that disease. Vaccines are usually administered through needle injections, but can also be administered by mouth or sprayed into the nose.

Vaccination: The act of introducing a vaccine into the body to produce immunity to a specific disease.

Immunization: A process by which a person becomes protected against a disease through vaccination. This term is often used interchangeably with vaccination or inoculation.

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Getting vaccinated can help keep you from getting sick with certain infections. Plus, being vaccinated helps protect the people around you from getting sick.
Your doctor or nurse will tell you which vaccines you should get.

There are some vaccines that all adults should get, even if they got their childhood vaccines. These vaccines protect against the following infections:

  • Influenza (flu) – The flu can cause fever, chills, muscle aches, cough, and sore throat. It can even cause a lung infection.
  • Diphtheria and tetanus – Vaccines against these 2 diseases are usually together in 1 shot. Diphtheria can cause a thick covering in the back of the throat that can lead to breathing problems. Tetanus causes the muscles to work abnormally.
  • Pertussis – This infection is also known as “whooping cough” and can cause a severe breathing illness in babies. It can also make older children and adults sick. Vaccinating adults helps prevent babies around them from getting the infection. The pertussis vaccine comes in the same shot as the diphtheria and tetanus vaccines.

Some adults will need other vaccines, depending on their age, medical conditions, jobs, travel plans, and other factors. These can include vaccines to protect against:

  • Pneumococcus – Pneumococcus is a germ that can cause an infection of the lungs (pneumonia), ears, blood, or tissues around the brain.
  • Meningococcus – Meningococcus is a germ that can cause an infection of the blood or tissues around the brain.
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV) – HPV infection can lead to cancer of the cervix (in women) and anal cancer (in men). It can also cause genital warts in men and women. Young adults, especially women, should get this vaccine.
  • Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B
  • Other infections such as measles, and chickenpox.
Each vaccine is different. Some vaccines work after just 1 dose. Others need 2 or more doses to prevent an infection. Some vaccines prevent an infection for the rest of your life. Others do not. A “booster” is a vaccine dose given after a certain number of years. It reminds the body how to prevent an infection. People who got childhood vaccines sometimes need booster doses in adulthood. People who travel to other countries also sometimes need booster doses of certain vaccines.
Different vaccines are given at different ages. Your doctor or nurse will recommend a vaccine schedule that is right for you. Most vaccines take a couple of weeks to work.

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