Immunizations and vaccines

Vaccines are a very effective way to prevent disease by immunizing people of every age against them, including deadly infectious diseases like mumps, rubella and whooping cough.

Are "vaccines" and "immunizations" the same thing?

The terms “vaccine” and “immunization” are commonly used to mean the same thing, but there is a difference.

A vaccine is a product that deliberately stimulates your immune system to become immune to a specific disease, and immunization is your body’s successful response to that disease.

Getting a COVID-19 shot is a very good idea

If you haven’t already received a COVID-19 vaccine, UCHealth makes it easy to schedule an appointment to get it.

The significant benefits of getting vaccinated

Historic victories over disease

Vaccines have greatly reduced and even eliminated many infectious diseases that used to harm—and even kill—people of all ages, all over the world.

Some of these diseases still exist, and you can get them if you aren’t vaccinated. In fact, thousands of adults in the U.S. become seriously ill and are hospitalized each year for vaccine-preventable illnesses.

Safe and convenient

Vaccination is one of the most convenient and safest preventive care measures available. That’s why, for years, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has worked with federal and local partners to protect public health and prevent infectious diseases.

Visit your primary care provider for vaccination to help protect yourself, your family and your community.

You need vaccines throughout your life

Grandpa and grandchild bundled upYou need to make sure your vaccinations are current because immunity can wear off as you age, and you are at risk for different diseases as an adult. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all adults get immunizations to help them prevent getting and spreading serious diseases that could result in poor health, missed work, medical bills and not being able to care for family.

Your primary care provider will discuss with you the vaccine schedule for your age and condition, as well as for your children.

CDC recommendations for adults

According to the CDC, all adults:

  • Need a seasonal flu (influenza) vaccine every year. Flu vaccine is especially important for people with chronic health conditions, pregnant women and older adults.
  • Should get the Tdap vaccine once if they did not receive it as an adolescent to protect against pertussis (whooping cough), and then a Td (tetanus, diphtheria) booster shot every 10 years. In addition, women should get the Tdap vaccine each time they are pregnant, preferably at 27 through 36 weeks. Additionally, the CDC recommends tetanus vaccination for all babies and children, preteens and teens, and adults.

Other vaccinations to consider

In addition, you may need other vaccines based on your age, health conditions, job, lifestyle or travel. The following diseases may be prevented by following the CDC guidelines for vaccines:

  • Chickenpox (varicella). A contagious disease caused by the varicella-zoster virus. It is most common in children.
  • Diphtheria. A serious disease caused by a poison made by bacteria. It may damage the heart, lungs and nerves. It can be fatal.
  • Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib). A bacterial infection that leads to serious conditions such as meningitis, pneumonia and epiglottitis.
  • Hepatitis A. A viral disease of the liver. You can get it by eating food or drinking water contaminated with feces, or you can get it by coming in contact with someone who has the infection.
  • Hepatitis B (hep B). This type of hepatitis is spread through blood and other body fluids, and can also be passed to a newborn from an infected mother. Hepatitis B is more severe than hepatitis A because hepatitis B can become a long-term condition (chronic), leading to cirrhosis and liver cancer.
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV). A very common sexually transmitted disease.
  • Measles (rubeola). A highly contagious viral infection.

  • Meningococcal meningitis. A severe bacterial infection of the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord (meninges) and can be life-threatening.
  • Mumps. A virus that causes a painful infection in the salivary or parotid glands, also sometimes affects other areas of the body.
  • Pneumococcal pneumonia. A serious lung infection caused by the bacteria Streptococcus pneumoniae.
  • Polio. A highly infectious viral disease that affects the nervous system. Polio has almost been completely eradicated due to vaccines
  • Rotavirus. A highly contagious virus that is the leading cause of severe diarrhea in children.
  • Rubella (German measles). A contagious disease caused by a virus.
  • Shingles (zoster). A painful skin rash with blisters caused by the varicella-zoster virus. It is the same virus that causes chickenpox. After a chickenpox infection, the virus remains in the body’s nerve cells for life. It can come back years later as shingles.
  • Whooping cough (pertussis). A highly contagious respiratory disease.

Side effects of vaccines

Dr and lady talking

Vaccines are most often given through an injection, so the most common side effects are mild soreness, redness or swelling at the injection site, which go away in a few days.

Severe side effects are very rare. Your primary care provider will discuss possible side effects with you to help you decide what is best for you and your family.