Have you ever wondered why we need an annual flu shot? Or maybe you’ve found yourself in the ER getting a tetanus shot after cutting your leg on a chain link fence… but didn’t you get a tetanus vaccine when you were a kid? So why do you need another? These types of inoculations are known as booster shots, which may not carry the same dose of the vaccine you had originally, but they will help boost your immunological memory to keep you from getting sick. With the rollout of the coronavirus vaccine, it’s not yet clear when (or if) a booster shot will be necessary to continue protecting us against COVID-19. In general, booster shots are common. Here’s why.

Your immune system’s memory can fade.

Your immunological memory is what dictates how quickly your immune system can respond to a pathogen. Vaccines help prepare a quick response by introducing your immune system to certain pathogens in a controlled way so that you don’t get sick. However, after several years (or fewer in the case of particularly voracious viruses like the flu) your immune system may “forget” the pathogen and need a reminder of how to fight it off. That’s where a booster shot comes in.

Pathogens don’t all affect your body the same way.

Another thing to think about with booster shots is the way that viruses and other pathogens attack the immune system. Some diseases progress slowly, so the immune system has more time to build up defenses. For these pathogens, boosters may not be needed as frequently—or even at all. Here’s a quick list of the booster shots you’re most likely to need as an adult:

  • Measles, mumps, rubella
  • Chickenpox
  • HPV
  • Tetanus, Diphtheria, and Pertussis
  • Influenza

Got questions about the COVID-19 vaccine? Not sure where to find coronavirus testing in your area? MeMD can help! Visit us for telehealth visits with 24/7 availability, or consult our blog for helpful info you can use to manage your health.

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