Are You Still Protected by Your Childhood Vaccines?

May 5, 2021 10:15 am Published by

You may have gotten the chickenpox vaccine as a child, or the MMR vaccine to protect against measles, mumps and rubella. But how long does the protection from these vaccines last? The answer is: every vaccine is different. Many childhood immunizations can protect you for a lifetime, while for others you may need an annual shot or booster as an adult.

7 Common Vaccines

Researchers must conduct long-term follow-up studies of trial participants to determine how long immunity lasts after a vaccine. But thanks to these studies, we can now better understand antibody resistance for several vaccines. Here are estimated time frames:

  • DTaP: Children receive five doses of DTaP vaccine to protect against diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough, followed by a Tdap booster during adolescence. The Tdap shot provides protection for approximately 10 years. Protection will wane. Adults should consider getting a Td or Tdap booster every 10 years to stay protected.
  • Flu shot (Influenza): Flu viruses change every season. Flu vaccines are updated annually to protect against the most common strains of the virus. You should get an updated flu shot every year.
  • Hepatitis A: Protection may last at least 20 years for both children who were vaccinated and adults who received the entire vaccine series.
  • Hepatitis B: Protection can last at least 30 years among healthy people who received the vaccine at 6 months of age. Booster shots are not recommended for adults with normal immunity.
  • IPV (Polio): It’s unknown how long protection lasts. However, many people have shown to be completely protected for years after receiving a full series of the IPV vaccine. Adults at increased risk of exposure to poliovirus can receive one lifetime booster dose of IPV.
  • MMR (Measles, mumps and rubella): If you received both doses, you may have lifetime protection against measles and rubella. Immunity against mumps may wane over time. If a future mumps outbreak occurs, your physician may recommend an additional MMR vaccine dose.
  • Varicella (Chickenpox): It’s unknown how long protection lasts. However, several studies show people who received a varicella vaccine had antibodies for at least 10 to 20 years.

Are Vaccines Effective Immediately?

All vaccines are different. Most vaccines take about two weeks to “kick in.” During this time, antibodies develop to protect against disease. COVID-19 vaccines don’t provide full protection until two weeks after the second dose. Similarly, the flu vaccine takes two weeks to protect against the influenza virus. It’s best to get vaccinated as soon as possible to give your body time to build up immunity.

Is Natural Immunity an Alternative to a Vaccine?

Immunity occurs after exposure to a disease and your body responds by producing antibodies. In the future, your body can recognize the disease and will have antibodies needed to fight it.

Immunity to a disease can occur by catching a disease (natural immunity), or through vaccination. Vaccines introduce your body to a small amount of an inactive or weakened part of the disease. This gives your body the chance to develop antibodies without getting sick.

It’s risky to wait for natural immunity from a disease. Natural infections can cause deadly complications. While vaccines may cause symptoms, they are mild in comparison to getting the disease itself. Vaccination is the best way to achieve immunity from fatal illnesses.

For up-to-date vaccines and immunizations, request an appointment with a primary care provider.

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This post was written by Magnolia Regional Health Center

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