By Grace Zhang, Policy Intern in the Office of the Chief Medical Officer
When I was a kid, I hated the doctor’s office almost as much as I hated broccoli. I knew once I was dragged feet-first into that white-walled dungeon, I would not leave without feeling the sting of a vaccine needle. Now at age 20, it hasn’t been the prospect of the sting that kept me from going in to get vaccinated; it has been something far worse: my ignorance and my apathy.
National health news headlines warned of the emergence of one of the worst flu seasons in the last decade, the reappearance of vaccine-preventable diseases such as whooping cough (pertussis) in alarmingly high numbers, and the CDC assessment that only 30 percent of women and 2.1 percent of men ages 19 to 26 have received the crucial HPV vaccine. Instead, I focused on my own health headlines that warned of the emergence of love handles, the reappearance of trendy superfoods, and the CDC assessment that an avocado a day kept the doctor away. Staying healthy to me simply meant eating right and going to the gym, not getting vaccinated. I thought I was done getting shots and I had all the protection I needed.
I was very wrong.
It turns out that I am still at risk of contracting vaccine-preventable diseases if I do not keep up with my vaccination schedule. In general, young adults have a very active social lifestyle, engage in sexual activity, and have progressively weakening immunity from their childhood vaccines which can increase their risk of contracting a disease and transmitting it. The CDC recommends the DTaP vaccine and boosters (tetanus, diphtheria, and whooping cough), the HPV (Human Papillomavirus) vaccine, and the seasonal flu vaccine for young adults.
Even those who do know about the vaccines available for young adults often do not rush out to get their shots. We’ve lost our urgency because we have taken the benefits of vaccines for granted. We did not grow up during a time where diseases like measles plagued our streets and claimed the lives of our friends and family. Our world is very different from that of our past. However, young adults who don’t have appropriate vaccination are at higher risk of catching vaccine-preventable diseases and transmitting them. It may not seem like it is easy to catch antiquated illnesses such as diphtheria especially with so many others vaccinated against them, but with a trend towards global exchange, diseases can strike communities close to home. If we continue not to vaccinate, the past could quickly become our present.
For a vaccine schedule for college students and young adults, visit this page Vaccine Recommendations.
Read about low vaccination rates in the news: Vaccination Rates Still Too Low in Adults, Says CDC