Stay unvaccinated?
March 25, 2014 5:34 AM   Subscribe

Should I get immunised?

As a child I received every immunisation that the government recommended.

I read recently that some childhood diseases are now appearing in adults due to some parents not immunising their children. The immunisation in adults was not previously necessary because the adults would not be exposed to the disease. Now they are.

I'd like to read more about this, and find out which immunisations I am missing, and what the real risks are. Are there any resources for this?
posted by devnull to Health & Fitness (17 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
You can go to a doctor and get your blood titred to see if you still have immunitites.

I had to be re-vaccinated for MMR before I could enroll in a university because my cohort (early sixties) was given a vaccine that was weaker than the ones given today.

See a doctor if you're concerned. Some of these things are VERY nasty.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:37 AM on March 25, 2014 [4 favorites]

At the very least, you should get your tetanus booster every ten years -- much easier to have it in advance than to go running around looking for an emergency room after you've stepped on a rusty nail.

This is a great thing to talk to your doctor about. They will be able to advise you on what you should update, and what you may be able to get that you haven't had before (e.g. HPV for women in certain age groups, influenza annually, chicken pox if you didn't have it as a child).

If you are in the US and have health insurance, you may also have a Call a Nurse line where you can ask about recommended vaccinations and available coverage.
posted by pie ninja at 5:45 AM on March 25, 2014 [4 favorites]

Also, if you haven't had a Tdap shot as an adult (for pertussis), just go to your local pharmacy and ask for one. You don't need to be tested first. I didn't realize until last year that I was not fully vaccinated up to current US standards even though I had had the DTaP vaccine as a child.
posted by instamatic at 5:47 AM on March 25, 2014 [5 favorites]

You should get your Tdap (tetanus, diptheria, pertussis), because you need the tetanus every 10 years and pertussis has become regionally epidemic several times in the last several years. For adults pertussis is miserable (you end up off work for 6-8 weeks, coughing incessantly); for infants, it is deadly.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:51 AM on March 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

I found this little quiz from the CDC that'll tell you which adult boosters you probably need and why. Because everything's funner with quizzes!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:55 AM on March 25, 2014 [14 favorites]

Here's the CDC Adult Immunization schedule.
posted by chiababe at 5:55 AM on March 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Ruthless Bunny: You can go to a doctor and get your blood titred to see if you still have immunities.

Veterinary health professionals routinely get the rabies vaccine, and then get titered annually to see if they are still protected. My wife got the vaccine when she first started in the field 20 years ago, and every titer since then has shown that she has sufficient antibodies. However, she has coworkers who seem to need to get re-vaccinated every couple of years.

If you are worried about your personal risk, getting a titer is the way to go, but unfortunately, your insurance will probably not cover it, and the tests are not cheap.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:09 AM on March 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

I just got my Tdap jab yesterday after not having had one previously as an adult, and what I will say for it: my arm is sore, but it turns out the pain/stiffness tends to be markedly less in adults than it is in adolescents, so if you were avoiding it because of unpleasant experiences in adolescence, it's apt to not suck quite as bad as you think. If you've had Tdap once, after that you only need the Td every ten years.
posted by Sequence at 6:10 AM on March 25, 2014

There are actually new recommendations for pregnant women regarding Tdap:
In October 2012, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) voted to recommend that health care personnel should administer a dose of Tdap during each pregnancy irrespective of the patient's prior history of receiving Tdap (or Td). To maximize the maternal antibody response and passive antibody transfer to the infant, optimal timing for Tdap administration is between 27 and 36 weeks gestation. This recommendation is supported by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).
I had one right after giving birth in 2010, per the then current recommendations, but now that I'm pregnant again, my OB told me things have changed in the last couple years, so I get to have another one again very soon, despite having had one within the last 10 years.
posted by chiababe at 6:18 AM on March 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Strongly recommend the Tdap-- whooping cough is back with a vengeance it will wipe out months of your life. ASK ME HOW I KNOW.
posted by Erasmouse at 6:19 AM on March 25, 2014 [11 favorites]

Recommendations and risks vary per country. It seems that most answers assume you are in the US (TDAP doesn't exist where I live). If you're not in the US, you may want to update the question with your location to get more specific advice.
posted by blub at 6:43 AM on March 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Do you get yearly physicals? Do you have a regular doctor?

That would be a good place to start. Part of a yearly physical should be making sure your immunizations are up to schedule. If you are lacking, that would be covered by insurance.

Another way, that is less likely to be covered by insurance, is to get your blood titred. This checks your blood for levels of antibodies, and should basically be done by every woman before becoming pregnant. (Though your particular insurance may be less enlightened). Rubella and chickenpox while pregnant is seriously dangerous. After being titred, you'd go back for any follow up vaccinations you need.

Immunity can change over the course of your lifetime. Public Health policy like this works best a population levels, not an individual person levels. This is why anti-vaxxers are breaking the whole system for everyone.
posted by fontophilic at 6:45 AM on March 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Get the doctor to check you immunity levels, which they can do with a blood test. If your are worried you can get vaccinated again, I had to have it done when moving to the US for several things as I couldn't find proof off had them done in Australia. I had my levels tested when I caught shopping cough even though I'd been immunized years ago, and it turned out my polio vaccine had worn off too. When I came to the USA, the doctor didn't even bother with a blood test and just immunised me again so if blood tests are to expensive you might be able to just get the shots.
posted by wwax at 6:49 AM on March 25, 2014

I work in a healthcare setting with children and also have two kids at home (5 and 5 months), so my recommendations might be a bit skewed, but overall it's in line with what has been recommended above. I got Tdap during my most recent pregnancy, to convey the immunity to my daughter who would be vulnerable otherwise, and was titered for MMR early in my first and given the booster right after delivery for similar reasons. I've also had Hep B updated a couple times as an adult, mostly due to my work situation (exposure risk, and also to protect the vulnerable population I work with), and I'm required to get the flu shot every year (though I would get it anyway even if not recommended).

Yes, this will protect you from new outbreaks, but you're also doing your part to restore herd immunity. This is hitting much closer to home these days with an infant in the house again, but she has not had all of her immunizations yet and her immune system is developing. Even if you can survive getting pertussis or rubella or whatever, she might not be able to. We're out and about in the world with her and we can't protect her from all of those things on our own. We need everyone to chip in.
posted by goggie at 7:12 AM on March 25, 2014 [4 favorites]

Talk to your doctor about this. There are specific boosters indicated for different situations. I'm not sure how much this depends on relative herd immunity and the anti-vax crowd, but your doctor will have specifics about that.

I've had MMR and DPT boosters as an adult, and am glad I did, especially since it was covered by my health insurance.

In my experience, your doctor will tell you when a particular vaccine not indicated.
posted by Sara C. at 12:33 PM on March 25, 2014

You need an MMR booster (maybe two) if you're female and considering having a child or are around children who are too young to get vaccinated--which is the whole population unless you live in a '50's bunker in the backyard. I also suggest the Hep vaxs and a yearly flu shot. Go to the CDC website and read up on it on your own, then talk to your clinician about what she thinks.
posted by syncope at 12:48 PM on March 25, 2014

Just FYI: you do not need a titer to determine whether you should get a vaccine. All you need to know is "well, I haven't had this since I was 11, it's time". It won't hurt you unless your immunocomprimised, so why risk it? You're not just protecting you, you're protecting all the children too young to get vaxes.
posted by syncope at 12:54 PM on March 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

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