Vaccination is the use of biological preparations that provide active acquired immunity to specific infectious diseases caused by bacteria and viruses, such as tetanus and pertussis (whooping cough). Vaccines are usually given to children early because they are especially vulnerable to such diseases when they are young. Amongst Singaporeans, the earliest and most common experience with vaccination was likely to be the compulsory jabs in primary school under the National Childhood Immunisation Programme.
Vaccines are not like vitamins – they are not always optional, and are most certainly not only for kids. While some vaccines do give rise to lifelong immunity once the full course is completed, often boosters have to be administered every few years to maintain immunity against the specific disease, as childhood immunity derived from vaccines we received as children can wear off with time.
Think of vaccines as a form of insurance, and one of the most cost effective means of preventing the contraction of infectious diseases with potentially devastating outcomes.
Based on the recommendations made in key health advisories regarding adult vaccination*, the following vaccinations are needed by adults 18 years and older without immunity and/or evidence of prior disease:
- Seasonal Influenza (all adults including women at all stages of pregnancy)
- Varicella (Chickenpox) (live vaccine and should not be given in pregnancy)
- HPV for both sexes (adults aged 18 to 25)
- Pneumococcal vaccine (all adults aged > 65)
The following vaccinations, which most adults may have received as an infant or child, typically require top-up boosters:
- Tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (Tdap) (one dose for all adults aged 19 to 64 years, and repeat during pregnancy between 16-32 weeks)
- Measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) (for those without 2 documented doses as children, but note that live vaccines should not be administered to pregnant women or immunocompromised patients)
- Hepatitis B (previously unvaccinated adults without known immunity and/or prior disease)