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Can vaccines protect me for life?

There are many different types of vaccines. Some actually contain a specific part that fights infection and only works for a short time, maybe months. An example of this is a certain type of hepatitis A vaccine.

Other types of vaccines stimulate your body to continually make the antibodies and white blood cells (among other things) that help your body to keep fighting off infections for a lifetime. Many childhood vaccines, such as measles and mumps, are intended to last for life.
While many vaccines can protect you for life, some require regular boosters. Most vaccines that children get in their early years provide lifetime immunity. Some, like the influenza vaccine, are needed annually because the viruses causing influenza change every year.

Others, like the diphtheria-tetanus-acellular pertussis (DTaP) vaccine, require "booster" shots to maintain immunity. For instance, immunity from the pertussis (whooping cough) vaccination wears off, making adults and adolescents particularly susceptible to the disease. This bacterial disease can lead to significant time lost from work and school. More worrisome is the fact that it can be transmitted to children who have not been vaccinated, particularly newborns, in whom the disease can be fatal.

Because booster shots are needed in adolescents and adults -- who are less likely to get vaccinated than children -- pertussis is the only vaccine-preventable infectious disease increasing in prevalence in the United States. In 2010, nearly 28,000 cases were reported to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The number of actual cases is likely triple that. That’s why the CDC added a recommendation for the adolescent booster of TDaP in 2005.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.